It does appear as if the human mind is hard-wired to make connections, but given the way that memories are made and habits are formed through the building of neurons and paths between them, it would make perfect sense that brains that work on connections tend to want to see connections in the world around. The connections we make tell us much about ourselves and about the world we happen to live with, so I thought it would be worthwhile to spend at least a little bit of time talking about some of these connections and my own amusement with them, insofar as they help to point out that my life tends to be one where connections and repetition is a frequent theme and one that is continually drilled into my head and brought to my attention.
Let us take these connections somewhat at random as well. For example, during the course of a short drive between church and where I had dinner with a couple of friends/relatives, I happened to see four different cop cars for the city of Portland, in at least three different styles of vehicle. First, as I came out of the church building I saw a cop in an SUV who turned into the church’s parking lot as I was leaving it. I thought this was rather odd and interesting at the same time. I then managed to see another cop while I was at Woodstock about to turn left, which was interesting as well. While driving south on 82nd Avenue I saw an officer in an unmarked car stop for something a convenience store and then saw another while driving further south on 82nd Avenue. Then, of course, while having a conversation I found out that one of my friends was having more trouble with the law. There are obviously a few takeaways from this. For one, there are a lot of police officers out and about in cities and towns in the United States. In some countries, cops tend to be fairly stationary, but in the United States they like to make their presence known through cruising around town. For another, not everyone notices the cops that are around, or ponders what they are about.
One of the things that I have noticed in life is that it is a lot easier to notice what is there than what is not there. And today gave me yet more reminders of this fact. For example, last week after services, I (and others) were personally reminded that we had a guest pianist in town this week and that we should make sure to bring our instruments so that we could play in the hymn ensemble, and yours truly was the only one to bring his instrument, even though it was hard to play because my instrument was very out of tune and having problems holding the changes I would make to the tuning, all of which made for very entertaining viewing, I am sure. Yet quite predictably it seemed as if quite a few people wanted to comment to me about the scarcity of people in the ensemble. I let them know that other people had asked me about the same thing, and repeated to all of them that everyone who was part of the ensemble had been asked to bring their instruments and that I thought it was somewhat odd that no one thought to ask them why they didn’t remember to bring their instruments. Yet it is not that odd that people would notice the only one who did.
Today brought plenty more poignant reminders about the difficulties of aging as well. Whether it was having people ask about the feast or my mother visiting town, or talking with someone about how he tried to gain extra money in retirement through joking around with his boss at the time, or having people ask me if I was going to a teen event despite being nowhere close to a teen, aging was definitely an aspect of a great many conversations today. There are, of course, a great many of poignant reminders about aging. There is the example of one of my coworkers being faced with the need to take some kind of test (probably the test to be a selling agent) and being concerned about not being able to pass it. That this coworker has struggled with some very serious health problems and that she has returned to work earlier than she should because she needs the money is itself worthy of concern. And then there is the case of a friend of mine, a widower and a deacon in our congregation who is laid out because he hurt his back doing something that was probably not something he viewed as a health risk. And then there is the case of my roommate, who has a really hard time climbing out of my car, which I view with considerable concern.
What are the connections that tie all of these things together. For one, all of these connections are made because of observations. To notice something missing, one needs to know and remember what something should look like and to fill in the missing pieces. This is a harder thing to do than merely notice what is present in the first place. Likewise, if one is being particularly observant when it comes to police cars, it is not very hard to notice a large amount of them on various reasonably busy city streets, whether they are cops driving around enjoying a sunny day, people looking for tickets to fill their quotas, or an officer on some kind of investigation or working in his (or her) normal beat. Similarly, if one has aging on the mind, a lot of things will tend to reinforce that theme. We live lives of sufficient variety in terms of the details that are around us that what we notice (and what we fail to notice) has a great many implications about who we are and where our mind is. It is not so much that we can make our reality as much as it is our response to external reality helps to reveal what is inside of us, if any of us want to pay attention to such things.