Coincidence or selective attention?

It’s funny how you go the longest time without thinking of someone or something, and all of a sudden it hits you at once, and it’s everywhere.I found out today that Leonard Cohen (about whom I wrote earlier this month, but hadn’t thought much about before) lived for a while in the island of Hydra (where I was earlier this month (see picture), but whose existence I didn’t know of before). I’d known Cohen was born in Montreal, but didn’t know that he’d been an undergraduate at McGill (where I too was an undergraduate back when).

Today I saw a documentary about Leonard Cohen, which wasn’t the greatest documentary I’ve ever seen. But the scene where Bono comments on “Hallellujah” really made me go, “Woah! I was just talking about that!” (the scene where Leonard Cohen himself sings “Tower of Song” with U2 as supporting band wasn’t bad either).

I also liked what Bono said about Cohen going to work on his writings as a carpenter works on his furniture. Very humbling. Not like some of us that just hope that the inspiration will hit us. Or maybe it will, if at least we keep working at it…Was it Einstein who said something about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration?Another thing I also didn’t know was that Cohen had been ordained a buddhist monk. Maybe at any other point of my life this fact might have passed unnoticed. But when I was in Greece a couple of weeks ago, I saw a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in years, and who was ordained a buddhist monk last March… The coincidences just keep getting more and more tangled, like a brilliant, though highly implausible, short-story.

Maybe it’s just me, ready to find coincidences just because I’ve been thinking about all these things, like Freud’s story about selective attention. I don’t know. But there is something unsettling about not seeing something that is right in front of your nose, until you’re ready to see it, and then you wonder how you never saw it before. Is it that we don’t try hard enough? Or is it really 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration?


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