My the week of my radiation treatment for cancer produced horrific events that could in no way be related to each other. Still, I see them as somehow related since they occurred to my family while I was too sick to comfort them.
I’ve seen the same phenomenon over and over. One thing goes wrong and two to five other unexpected and unrelated events knock us down. My stress management doctor used to quote studies that showed that traumatic events tend to cluster in a person’s life. One study concluded that clusters of negative events may occur over a five year period. Someone gets cancer. Their neighbor’s house catches fire and the fire damages their own house. The pet gets hit by a car. The son or grandson gets assaulted.
When my mom had her stroke, my brother got diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t help with her. My nephew visited her in the hospital with his face bruised and swollen from an assault. What goes on? Research shows that the events do cluster, yet have no measurable connection to each other. Why?
As long as I have studied the social sciences I’ve been aware of this phenomenon. I’ve had classes where the teachers tried to talk about stress being the common factor that causes disease, car accidents and somehow when the humans are stressed the cat runs out on the road in front of a car. The stress as the common factor theory doesn’t really hold up under close examination. How does human stress cause a five year-old hot water tank to start leaking or a young refrigerator to die?
For years I supported of the “bad vibes” theory of multiple negative events. The cancer patient produces vibes that trigger the mother’s stroke and distract the sister so she doesn’t pay attention when backing up at the supermarket. Maybe the pets feel the bad vibes. Who knows?
I’ve seen explanations that use quantum mechanics to explain the clusters. Do they occur when the victims are functioning near an overlapping universe and something about the overlap is distracting or stressful to people so that they become more accident and disease prone? Does the overlap cause electronics and appliances to malfunction? Trekies might agree that it does.
Mathematics affirms that universes do overlap. How does that affect events in this universe? Can overlapping universes explain why one family might be experiencing a cluster of traumatic events while their neighbors are sailing along with no problems worse than a rare bad hair day?
Then, we can look at the guilt theories of negative event clusters. Karma states that bad things happen because you have done something bad. What type of horrific action can someone who is trying to be good commit to cause them to get cancer? Does one person’s bad Karma cause negative events for their children, grandchildren and their cat? It seems that their behavior would have been outstandingly evil to produce so much negative energy, and why must it rebound on the grandchild and cat?
Fundamentalists who claim the Christian tradition, like to take a position similar to the Karma theory. God is punishing people for disobedience, or God is teaching people a lesson. That is a disgusting image of God. Someone had impure thoughts so God gave their son cancer? I don’t think that a just God is going to give someone cancer. What lesson does the believer learn from a series of negative events? God doesn’t love them would be the most logical conclusion, and I think the fundamentalist position agrees that God doesn’t love some people who commit sins that nobody else can see, and the sinner is not aware of. This is supermarket theology supported by those who have never studied the whole body of scripture multiple times. No, justice and a just God do not demand horrific pain for imagined offences. Bad things happen to good people and those bad things may well cluster into a series of events.
I sometimes wonder if the clustering of negative events isn’t a time related thing. Everybody bumps along quite well for about fifteen years. They take care of their bodies in a casual fashion. They buy and sell cars. They take the pet to the vet. Finally, time catches up to their lives and they become ill, the old car becomes challenging to drive, and lots of little things need replacing or repaired. A long-standing feud between two cats becomes intolerable to one of them.
I spent a couple years exploring this phenomenon with my stress management doctor. He affirmed that my observations are empirically correct in that negative events cluster. We never did get to the reason they cluster. My desire to control this phenomenon is one reason I write. I can cope with it on the pages of a novel.
I have to humbly conclude that there is much more to our world and our existence than we know anything about, and we have no control over those powers.