01/04/2014 10:16 BST | Updated 01/06/2014 06:59 BST

You and Me: Our Collective Consciousness

A pot-smoking friend once regaled me with his theory of a collective human consciousness, his idea being that supposedly we are all connected by some sort of invisible net that links our minds. I remember laughing heartily at the concept as I inhaled secondary smoke while thinking this is what drugs do to one's brain- invent wild theories without any foundation whatsoever.

As I look back at the last fifty years of my life I do however agree with my old friend. Human beings are connected to one another. We share similar ideas and thoughts which are capable of igniting a latent consciousness. We may think it a coincidence to suddenly have an identical thought as a total stranger but perhaps it is not. For example: if you and I were sitting under an apple tree, the probability of us both thinking the same thing would be quite high. And if we both liked apples, the ratio would improve further. Say an apple landed at our feet. One thought that would most certainly go through our heads would be to eat it or to make an apple pie slathered with cream or ice cream. Are we thinking the same thing because we are picking up the transmitter in each other's brains or are we merely wired from experience which moulds and shapes our likes and dislikes to think a certain way and to arrive at the same shared thought?

Apples aside, most humans are inherently good and it is rare to come across really nasty types. Our collective consciousness means that we suss out bad people from good ones pretty sharpish. The concept of an evil absolute, a Lucifer-type character would be hard to randomly cross paths with.

One could argue that an innate ability to connect with others has more to do with cause and effect but consider this: in 1982 I set off for Bordeaux on a whim and landed in a city where I knew no one. I met a woman at the airport who immediately offered me a place to stay. I trusted her instinctively and went to stay in her flat where she gave me a room to sleep in filled with (formerly alive) stuffed animals - a taxidermist's dream. Her strange German boyfriend was prone to long silences and I remember the water in the taps dripped instead of flowed. I stayed in her home for about three days until another stranger agreed to let me rent their apartment without even signing a lease, paying a deposit or the first month's rent. And the night I moved into that apartment, a kindly elderly lady knocked on the door and asked if I needed anything. She promptly gave me bed linen, even a mattress and pots and pans. In time my life sorted itself out- with the help of papa and a bank transfer but whenever I recall that story of happy coincidence and trust, I remain somewhat incredulous but also grateful that the universe took care of me. All the people in that story took a gamble on a person they didn't know. And if by some weird transmission and without knowing each other, they shared the same idea: to help someone for the heck of it but because they were good people wanting to do good things.

I wrote in my book, How to be Happy, about the universe conspiring to help us. For too many of us, our transmitter to the benevolent universe tends to be broken. The pace of our lives leaves no room for the signals from the universe to get through. Just like religion where one has to be receptive to the idea of God, the universe operates in the same way: if we were to suddenly empty our heads of useless worries, preoccupations and the pursuit of what we don't have, we would retrieve that lost connection. A friend of mine remarked that if he were to switch off his 'phone so he could 'empty his head', it would take him hours to sift through all the messages and missed calls. He therefore lives in a perpetual state of being too busy to even think or rather, to not think. Intriguingly, the more we dance as fast as we can, the more we shift the subtle balance which keeps us sane and healthy. And the more the balance is disrupted, the less chance of being able to connect with each other.

I am quite sure that many if not all of you would have had similar experiences to these: I frequently pick up the 'phone and call people who I've thinking about- they had just been thinking about me too. Recently a former boyfriend and perhaps the great love of my life, viewed my profile on LinkedIn- we had had no part in each other's lives for over twenty years but I had been wondering whatever happened to him. I knew the moment my pet dog died- I rang my parents and they told me she had just been knocked down by a car.

So that drug-induced comment from my friend actually became a revelation for me. We really are one.


Photo copyright S. van Dalen