Do you believe in coincidence?

I am an atheist. I do not believe that there is a benevolent overlord that guides this vast Universe, instructing every atom, and subatomic particle to do its bidding. On the other hand, I am a scientist - if not by profession, then certainly by inclination. I like to think of this vast amalgam of atoms as a system that is governed by some set of rules that we have not yet completely identified, let alone understood. And I would like to believe (not having the luxury of observing the Universe from 'outside') that this system of particles and elements and compounds and structures, gives rise to sentient life - organisms that are born and grow and eventually find their way to the same elements.

I think the Second Law of Thermodynamics is the greatest poem ever written. In the dry pages of a academic text, lies this completely sentient model of the Universe. For is it not a fundamental property of the living that it constantly changes? Be it a fragile butterfly that lives for but a night, an African turtle that lives for more than 300 years, or the sagely Methuselah that has seen the civilizations rise and fall for 5000+ years; they all change ever so slightly every passing moment. And this change, like the fluttering of a tiny butterfly's wings over the Atlantic, propagates through the Universe - sometimes instantaneously, sometimes in patient ambulation that could last lifetimes. 

So what do we make of coincidences, the serendipitous confluence of different lives, different times, or different minds towards the realization of one - one specific, crystallized moment of unified efforts? My life (so far) has been peppered with such coincidences, events when an answer - or at least a door towards one -  "magically" finds its way to me. It is also no surprise to me that in all cases, this answer arrives in the form of the written word (books, and more lately, articles and other online stuff.) I seem to have an uncanny knack of picking up just the right books from a bookstore, or worse, a mammoth library with hundreds of shelves holding many thousands of books. When I say right, I mean the book that has the right insight into a question that may be occupying my gray matter at the moment. The author may be a total unknown, the subject completely tangential to my field of study (I have picked up books from the libraries in my alma-mater that were purchased twenty years ago, but were first checked out by yours truly!) And anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in the musty, dark interiors of a well-stocked library can attest that the books all look the same, with their dark library bindings and call numbers stamped in gold foil. It is a complete mystery as to what guides, nay compels, my fingers to pick up one volume of written word over the other? And even perplexing is the ability of the said biblia to be able to provide an insight into something so topical!

After a few stretches on the gray matter ( and a lot of fish, courtesy Jeeves :) ) I may hazard to postulate a theory - if the Universe is a system that changes its state every moment, and if every atom in the Universe (collections like living organisms may count for one unit) defines this state, then coincidences are the Universe's way of nudging the system into a steady, optimal state. Imagine you were climbing a hill, blindfolded. Not able to see the path (if it exists) around you, you rely on tactile, auditory and other types feedback from the world that is reachable by stretching your hands and probing with your feet. As far as you know, that is the extent of the world that you can comprehend. You make your way with tentative probes, one step at a time. Of course, the hill wants you to succeed - what's the point of a game if there is no winner? But should you find yourself edging towards a precipice of certain doom, it sends over a subtle signal (a slight change in the gradient, a rock to stub your toe with, the sensation of there-is-no-ground-under-my-feet - oh too late!) to get you back on track.

From a mathematical modeling perspective, the Universe made a few changes in the evolution of the hill that materialized the rock over millennia of erosion at that point in space (global state) . But from your perspective, it is a marvel that you stubbed your toe at just the right moment before going over a hundred feet fall (local state). You would exclaim, "What a coincidence that the rock happened to be there" whereas in fact, the rock was placed there for exactly that purpose - to turn away errant blobs of sentient matter that were too precious to be wasted before they were fully utilized. Of course, sentient blobs also have an annoying habit of ignoring the obvious when it is staring at their face, and this keeps the Entropy engine rolling.  Come to think of it, would you really like to live in a steady, stagnant Universe where you could predict everything till the end of Time? Oh, so boring, innit?
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