Inscrutability is the risk every rigid pantoum runs. This one ran perilously close to the edge, but I hope it's worthy of collection here. It's message may be one of the most important ones I've ever related in poetry.
Basically, since middle school, I've noticed that I often learn things only to see those subjects pop up somewhere soon after. Like, I learn, say, about the civil war, and then an ad on the side of a bus reads, "This way, to the civil war museum." At first I took them for coincidences. I think most people do.
Being a fanciful sort of person, I couldn't help wondering, though, if these were guideposts of the universe. Like in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, I wondered if these supposed coincidences were a way to know I was on the right "path."
Obviously, this is a way to find inherent meaning in things that dwell in an existence that may be inherently meaningless. The war between trust and doubt rages.
A more scientific approach might be to say that "seeing signs" is merely an indication that your brain is on, and alert. Which is great. I know of one study that showed that people who considered themselves "lucky" were scores more likely to pick up a ten dollar bill off the ground than people who considered themselves "unlucky," because the unlucky mind is not looking to see if anything good is around. The unlucky eye edits out positive chances, opportunities.
I go back and forth on how lucky I am. I grew up in one of the freer, friendlier countries, Canada, but my childhood was subject to countless abuses and misfortunes. And while I'm always looking to succeed and to stick my neck out and to jump on chances for personal gain, I can't help reading my life as a series of missed connections, brushes with greatness, and abandonment, which as a self-perception, I must admit, makes me feel worse about myself for feeling entitled and arrogant enough to believe I'm as talented as some say I am. Resting on laurels is, perhaps, my worst quality.
All I can say is, I'm happiest when I'm 'seeing signs.' And doubt, no matter how positive and necessary a thing in the science world, is often the thing corroding my faith in existence, turning my head away from signs and toward drab meaninglessness.
Still, I feel I owe it to myself, and whatever people see in me, to work hard at my craft, and hone my skill set. Superstition, I'm beginning to realize--in spite of my considerable atheism--has impaired my ability to take on the world at face value (which could do away with many of my neurotic tendencies). I've been a feng shui consultant, a dream interpreter, and a minor expert on astrological concerns (mainly thanks to growing up with my mom, a born starchild), though I wouldn't say I believe in a single non-scientific aspect of any of those trades. I just have an innate gift for committing folkloric belief systems to mind.
I'm a certified reflexologist, but as evidence continues to come forward suggesting it holds no water as a legit health practice, how can I practice in good faith? I may be happier when I'm seeing signs, but I think I'm better at what I put into the world when I doubt.
All that said, the reason these arcane interpretations of the world have endured is because the world is a mysterious tangle of patterns. Patterns that science is demystifying. Not fast enough for some to put their faith in it, like the bushman who says no one has been on the moon because he has never met anyone who has been on the moon, and most importantly, he has not been on the moon (imagine what he would say about the atom).
But I think the problem lies in how what some call patterns, others call coincidences. How many doctors saw what Semmelweis saw (that doctors should wash their hands after handling corpses to keep from transmitting germs to other patients, killing them) before Semmelweis decided to do something about it (and look where that got him)?
All that said, I think it's easy to see why modern skeptics think the way they do. We have thousands of years of culture, with countless sufferings to speak for, borne by trust in false patterns. And those who still cleave to false patterns are waging an intellectual war against those who pioneer correct patterns.
But I think if we can somehow adopt a more fluid relationship within ourselves toward trust and doubt, never taking one or the other too seriously, never consigning to rigid belief or rigid doubt, then we would see the meaning in life we've been searching so hard to find:
The open mind sees the patterns. Everywhere in nature. And if we master them, and never trust or doubt that we're done looking for new ones, we may defeat pain.
Ps. That could actually be a pretty good argument for twitter (which I ordinarily malign), our current maelstrom of modern pattern-navigation.