Drinking the Juice of Coincidence: David Byrne, Anne Lamott, and God.

Read the book “Bird by Bird.” Go see David Byrne. Let amazing things happen.

Something rather amazing happened the other day.

I saw David Byrne and St. Vincent. But that wasn’t all.

When I got home from the show, I picked up my copy of “Bird by Bird” written by Anne Lamott. I have been reading it for a few weeks now, very slowly, savoring each page. I had probably read the last page of the third chapter about 20 times in the past week




I picked up the book after the show because the feeling of the music was still so palpable, I wanted to do something great with that energy;  like absorb some of Anne Lamott’s wisdom. I decided it was finally time to move on to the next page rather than re-read the last one again.

Here is an excerpt of what I read next, and it spans pages 28-31, so I apologize for not fully replicating the original flow of the text:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people…Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases, we don’t even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways. They keep us standing back or backing away from life… So how do we break through them and get on? It’s easier if you believe in God, but not impossible if you don’t…Now, it might be that your God is an uptight, judgmental perfectionist…but a priest friend of mine has cautioned me away from the standard God of our childhoods, who loves and guides you and then, if you are bad, roasts you: God as high school principal in a gray suit who never remembered your name…If this is your God, maybe you need to blend in the influence of someone who is ever so slightly more amused by you, someone less anal. David Byrne is good, for instance. Gracie Allan is good. Mr. Rogers will work.”

There is no way to explain how it felt to see that. My eyes triple-checked it in a flash, his name sat there like lead, like it was the only word I had ever truly read in my life. Like it was the only word that ever was and would ever be real. How could it be? And in that one word, Byrne, my whole universe collapsed and sprang forth. I was thunderstruck.

It was like things all came together, it was the solid center, the thing I’d been looking for, it was God!

Then Vicki Winslow made a post called “Something is Happening Around Me…” that further solidified what I felt. That there is always this magic, always this infusion of “wow” in what is around us. My book was supposed to be about that, and somewhere along the way the true feeling of those ridiculous coincidences slipped into the past. I am thankful for the refreshment.

For me, that feeling of seeing David Byrne’s name on the page right after the concert had the quality of a Zen koan; it helped me to wake up. I can look at any leaf of the tree across the street, and allow it to have a similar breathy magic to it; it’s not quite the same of course, but it does help remind me that in each little thing there is the same “wow” that was in those letters when I read them. For that one moment, I was just able to see it more clearly.

It’s like after you look at the night sky through a telescope, you never quite see it the same way. You know there are little smoky donuts and dust storms and things that are not visible with the naked eye..but you have seen them, so you know the depth that is possible. No longer will you see it as a one-dimensional sheet of black with some stars, even on a cloudy night.

I am simply grateful this week for such a coincidence, especially because now as I try to let go of perfectionism, I really do feel like God-mixed-with-David-Byrne is looking over my shoulder and patting me on the back when I do a good job.


Have you had any really cool coincidences lately, or in the past?

Do you think it means something when there is a coincidence like that, or do you think it’s just simply some events lining up in a way at random?

And what are those clouds in your sky doing right now? The ones in mine are long and bloated, moving with a quickness that seems to be happening despite their best efforts to take a nap.

23 thoughts on “Drinking the Juice of Coincidence: David Byrne, Anne Lamott, and God.

  1. Coincidences are those little perfect reminders of what is all around us. God, magic, wonder — whatever you want to call it — is there if we can be open to it.

    I loved how the concert connected so well to the book you were savouring. Isn’t it great when TWO good things come together? Perfect match-making with you as its conduit.

  2. I think there are signs, every day, we just don`t see them and one day we do and we put the pieces together. It would be too long for a comment but maybe I`ll write about my Paul Auster chain of coincidences and if I do, I`ll let you know!!

  3. Hi Rachel. I think coincidence is really awareness. If you tell yourself one morning that you will see a lot of purple – you WILL see a lot of purple, because you are looking for it (try it, with colours, people, events etc.). Many times when we ‘surprisingly’ see ‘just what I was looking for’ – it’s because we were looking for it!
    Meaning does not exist outside of the meaning we choose to give things (which is why it IS meaning) – so the meaning of YOUR coincidences is for you to meditate on!
    I too love that moment of convergence. I recently made a model for someone of a woman holding a baby (no idea why). Two days before I give her the gift she announces that she’s pregnant!
    Our world is ace!

    • I like thinking about it as the “moment of convergence,” that’s a nice way to put it all together! That’s pretty intense about the model…wow! Very interesting to think about the different ways that truth makes its way from one place to another in our world.
      And yes, for me, seeing David Byrne and then having Anne Lamott mention him was insanely meaningful. It’s very interesting to see how meaning plays out for different people and at different times in our lives.
      Also, my name is Jen 🙂

      • Bugger! How on earth did I call you Rachel? How rude! I’m sorry.
        All I can say is, look out for people called Rachel – (‘noo noo noo noo ~ music from Twilight Zone… ;))

  4. Have you had any really cool coincidences lately, or in the past?

    Hmm…lol….yeah you reading “Jitterbug Perfume” also I met David Bryne once at a restaurant I worked at. I never, never used to ask for autographs but I did him.
    He wrote in this very Flintstonesque script “My Name; David Bryne, Your Name: Sindy Simms lol very cool. I loved The Talking Heads.

    • Haha it’s okay. I had to recheck my post like 84,837 times and still I’m not sure that I didn’t spell names wrong at least once..

  5. Such an interesting post, with many interesting ideas.
    In my belief, a coincidence, excuse the word use, is far too coincidental to be a random occurrence in one’s life. Now, I don’t know about ‘cool’ coincidences, but on Saturday, Twitter, in its unfathomable wisdom, decided to unfollow both me and the woman that I have a major crush on. Whatever it is that we have together is anything but sweet and romantic – it is tragic and heartbreaking, and thus, coincidental that Twitter unfollowed us both, as though the application is directly expressing how we do not belong together – online, or any other way.
    As for the clouds…well, I’ve a roof over my head and so can’t tell. Sorry!
    Again, very interesting and well articulated post!

    • I’m glad you liked it! Hm, sentient social networks? Sounds like a good idea for a sci fi horror thriller if you ask me…and I’m glad it worked out for the best for you, sometimes distance is a good thing!

  6. Hey Jennifer, thanks for sharing this experience. I have always thought that when coincidence happens to find its way into our life it is there to teach or to guide. As in this case with you it seems to be that way. I have come to also see coincidence as the manifestation of something that we desire to see in our hearts. Just as one commenter above said that if we decide we want to see a lot of purple today then we will see it. For me, I have yet to truly embrace this power that lies within all of us, its almost like I forget it is there. This post serves to remind me to exercise my coincidental super-powers everyday!! Thanks Jennifer.

    • Yay! I’m glad you remember those super-powers; they are always there! And just the fact that you see the coincidences as things that can teach us and guide us shows that you are ready to be taught and guided..so yes..awesomeness shall ensue!

  7. I am blanking on any examples of coincidence, which is maddening because I see them all the time!

    However, and this is more like “Aniko’s Rules for Handling Coincidence” than any particular example, I do notice if I run into the same seemingly random person multiple times. I believe that when that happens, we have a message for one another. We probably don’t know what the message is at the moment, but over the fullness of time, the reason for our meeting will be revealed.

    The problem with this is that sometimes it leaves me feeling close to someone that I don’t really know well yet. People talk about love at first sight, and this is a little like that, only it’s recognition, not love. I recognize people who will have an impact on my life long before there’s any good reason to think that. Precognition? Coincidence? Or just me doing things from then on out that make a path for what I thought I saw? I don’t know, but it’s happened enough that I never ignore that feeling.


    • I’ve had that feeling too! Sometimes it even takes years upon years for it to fully flesh out also, which is strange.
      Have you seen “I Heart Huckabees?” I think that’s the movie I’m thinking of. They deal a bit with coincidence in a different way, but when you mentioned running into someone repeatedly, that movie came to mind. 🙂

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