Editor’s Note: This article first appeared at Forbes.com.
Every now and then, something unforeseen and special happens—something that logic or reason would tell you is either impossible or that the odds against it happening are overwhelming. And yet those things occasionally happen and fill us with wonderment.
How should we characterize or classify such events? Are they miracles? Flukes? Coincidences? Or do they hint at some sort of transcendent or metaphysical power—perhaps another dimension of reality that exists just beyond the range of the human mind—something like karma, fate, destiny, or divinity?
Before I tell you about my recent experience, let me share an incident that typifies the improbable long-shots that somehow happen even when there is no apparent reason why they should. Some years ago, I read the book, “Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery Behind Them,” by Martin Plimmer and Brian King.
Over the course of about 260 pages, the authors relate dozens of actual incidents that seemed to mock the laws of probability. One story in particular caught my fancy. In the 1920s, a young opera singer named Lauritz Melchior (whom I later learned became the pre-eminent Wagnerian tenor opera singer of the 20th century) was practicing in the garden at his pension in Munich. Plimmer and King write, “As he sang the words, ‘Come to me, my love, on the wings of light,’ a female parachutist landed at his feet. It was the Bavarian actress Maria Hacker, who was performing a stunt for a movie thriller. They were married in 1925. ‘I thought she came to me from heaven,’ said Melchior.”
Knowing my wife to be a romantic, of all the vignettes compiled in that book, this was the one I decided to share with her. The “coincidences” weren’t over, because Eileen said, “I met Lauritz Melchior shortly before his passing when Lou [Eileen’s first husband, who died tragically young] auditioned for him at the New York Met.” Think about it: What are the odds that my wife would know any of the individuals whose stories were included in the book I was reading, much less the protagonist in the only account I shared with her?