There have been times when I’ve felt so bad I’ve wanted the Earth to swallow me up. Times when, if I’d had one wish, I would not have wished for more money or time or power; I’d have wished to disappear in a puff of smoke.
And there was a time when I very, very nearly killed myself.
We’re all human, which is to say, we all have the capacity to experience tremendous pain. I’m talking about emotional pain here, but the same goes for physical…
I think it was Primo Levi who said something like:
“A human is an animal that can adapt to any circumstances, no matter how appalling”.
I once watched a documentary called “The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off”. It was about a boy with a rare disease – his skin fell off his body every few days. His skin kept falling off all the time. His parents had to bandage him up, and he lived with that pain day in, day out, his whole life. In the end, he died of skin cancer.
I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much, or been so moved, as I did and was by that movie. That boy’s courage and dignity will remain with me, always. You can watch it here. You will be moved and shaken and inspired.
I wrote recently about feeling like an Ant. And about feeling like God.
To me, the difference between the two is just all about where we place our attention (and where we place our attention is the greatest sign of our intelligence)…
So I want to share with you a great way to shift your attention from the mundane, painful, ant-like aspects of life, towards God:
It’s called synchronicity.
Some people call it co-incidence, but I like to say that there is no such thing as co-incidence. Others call it luck, and I like to say that we make our own luck, and one of the ways in which I’ve made mine (and I’m one of the luckiest people in the history of luck) is by doing what I’m about to tell you about.
Actually, a better word than synchronicity is perhaps ‘miracle’. Because although mathematicians can work out the odds of some of the things I’m about to tell you about happening; and although they might say that there is a billion to one chance; I’d say that it’s simply impossible. So it’s a miracle.
In 1999 I was reading a book about synchronicity.
I was living in a shabby little room in a big shabby house in Stoke Newington, London. For those of you that don’t know London, that’s very close to where the recent riots all kicked off.
The room I was in had one thing going for it – it overlooked a small park (I think it was called Stoke Newington Green).
And one morning, as I was making myself breakfast, I was thinking about the head-on car crash I’d had when I was 18 yrs old, when I’d only seconds earlier put on my seat belt – in itself, a kind of synchronicity. I never used to wear my seat belt, but that day, and I don’t know why, I did. It might have saved my life. It certainly prevented any injury, and the other guy wasn’t so lucky…
Anyway, I’m standing there making my breakfast and remembering that car crash, when suddenly I hear an almighty KRUNSCH. I look out the window, and across the other side of the park, two cars have just collided. This blew my mind. But it’s not the punchline.
The very next day, standing there making myself breakfast again, thinking about the previous days synchronicity… KRUNSCH. I look out the window, and in exactly the same spot, two cars have collided.
When I was working as an actor I had no work. I was a terrible actor. So one day I had to go out and get myself a job, and after walking around London literally all day without success, I told myself: “One more”.
I walked into one more bar and asked if they needed a barman. The girl behind the bar (full of piercings and tats, with a shaved head, and a ton of attitude) said ‘no’, at the same time as a guy appeared from the stockroom. As I turned to leave, thoroughly dejected, he called out:
“Wait a minute, we might be looking for someone”.
So I sat down with him for a coffee and had an interview.
While we were talking I noticed a photo of two naked men walking down the beach away from camera, hand in hand. Then I noticed that my interviewer had a handlebar moustache and a leather waistcoat. Then I noticed the girl behind the bar again, and all the other very obvious signs that I was in a gay bar.
The owner – the guy interviewing me – was called Robin.
On the wall, above the photo, was a metal sign:
“The Back Bar.”
As I clocked the photo on the wall, Robin asked me:
“Is it a problem for you, working in a gay bar?”
I thought about it for a moment. I couldn’t find any reason why it should be a problem.
“No”, I said.
And so I worked there for a year. It was a great year. I loved almost every minute of it. And a tip for any single young straight men reading this: working in a gay bar is a great way to meet girls. Trust me.
A few years later, and a few weeks after the double car crash synchronicity, I was in a rehearsal studio with my band (I was the drummer). As we left the studio, we were all talking about what a terrible drummer I was. (I was worse at drumming than I was at acting). I’d been thinking for a while about drum lessons, and just as I was thinking about it again, we walked past the door of one of the other studios… and heard the most amazing drum solo. There was someone in there playing the drums like I’d never heard the drums played before. We all stopped. I had to go in there. It couldn’t be a co-incidence.
So I went in there. I slowly opened the door and saw this young guy playing the kit as if it was a part of him. He was amazing. But the most amazing part of it all, and the reason I stood there with my mouth wide open for a while even after he stopped playing – on the wall, above his head, was a metal sign:
“The Back Bar.”
When I moved to Slovenia, my (now) wife and I talked a lot about getting a dog. We had both always had dogs around us, but right then we were a little afraid of the doggy responsibility. Now we have a dog, two cats, and a baby, and I’m still afraid of responsibility.
So we were thinking of getting a dog for 2 years, and it went like this:
“Let’s get a dog?”
“Hang on, what about the responsibility…”
“You’re right, forget it.”
One day we were out walking in the hills and the same conversation came up. And this time my wife said:
“Let’s ask the universe what we should do”.
I’d never heard of this ‘ask the universe’ concept (sounded a little too ‘New-Age’ for me to be honest), but we did it. We put this question out there to the universe, and simply waited for the answer.
We didn’t have to wait long…
After the walk, we were heading into town. We got into the car, and my wife was fiddling with the radio. Our usual radio station wasn’t available, and she was trying to find another channel.
Suddenly (on Slovene radio) an English voice said:
“And now, from 1966, ‘I Love My Dog’ by Cat Stevens”.
It’s a cool song (“all the pay I need comes shining through his eyes”). My Dad had a cassette tape of Cat Stevens when he was Cat Stevens – before he changed his name to Yusuf or something and converted to Islam. I’d always been intrigued by him and that old, worn cassette tape. It would have been sign enough, even without the obvious dog song.
“That’s it, that’s the sign, we’re getting a dog!”
In town we saw a poster. A woman’s dog had had puppies. When we got there, only one puppy was left. His name:
We renamed that puppy Jai.
I could go on and on giving examples of synchronicities, or miracles, that have happened to me. On and on and on. Because the more open you are to them, the more you see them. They happen all the time. Life is a long succession of miracles. You are a miracle.
So here’s what to do: be open to miracles. Keep an eye out for synchronicities. Because when things like this happen, you stop feeling like a helpless little ant, and you realize that you are part of a much bigger picture. You stop and say ‘wow’.