Plate O’ Shrimp

Fri 08/12/05 at 10:18 am

I have never taken a psychology course. I think, long ago, I may have read Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. I know I carried a copy of it around for years, and consulted it in conjunction with a paper I wrote long ago and far away about androgyny and Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères. I am aware that Jung believes in the existence of a collective unconsciousness. Indeed, that concept forms the basis of my all time favorite New Yorker cartoon, captioned “James Joyce’s Refrigerator:”


If you can’t quite make it out, the “To Do” list reads:

1. Call Bank
2. Dry Cleaner
3. Forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
4. Call mom

I liked it so much I had the cartoon transferred to a t-shirt. See

Even so, I was unaware, until I conducted a Google search of the term “synchronicity” for this blog entry, that Jung actually coined the word to describe two contemporaneous events that are linked together in a meaningful manner. I vividly recall a dinner conversation with my blogmate mjh and his wife Merri about the subject. After telling them about a synchronistic moment in my life, both of them, simultaneously uttered, “Plate of shrimp.” When asked to explain, they told me about the exploration of the topic in the film Repo Man. I immediately went out and rented said film, and have since acquired the DVD. In one scene, Miller, the groundskeeper for an automobile repossession firm, explains to Otto, the newest repoman,

A lot of people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidents of things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays [sic] on top of everything. Give you an example. Show you what I mean. Suppose you’re thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say, like, “plate” or “shrimp” or “plate of shrimp,” out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It’s all part of the cosmic unconsciousness.

In a subsequent scene, the following is taped on the door of a diner:

Plate O' Shrimp Luncheon Special
Plate O' Shrimp Luncheon Special

In thinking about and researching this novel, I have had a number of “plate of shrimp” experiences. It seems as though every time I come up with a character or a plot point or a back story detail, the next day I read or see my idea in someone else’s book or movie. Sometimes the coincidence is quite remarkable. Those are the times I think maybe I really have tapped into The Collective Unconsciousness. I guess it really does all go back to Gilgamesh or The Bible or any number of other ancient writings and oral traditions. Maybe someday we’ll know how much has actually gotten coded into our DNA. When I get discouraged about the fact there really appears to be nothing new under the sun, my friends and family assure me that no one has quite yet told the story the way I intend to tell the story. So here goes, “Once upon a time . . .”

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