Category Archives: useful


Duh, sort of. Thanks to the comments in this post on Accordion Guy’s blog, I’ve realized the word I was looking for last week is synchronicity. Which I knew.

But I still think what I’m getting at is a little different. Synchronicity is broader: it can be any coincidence. What I’m talking about is the sudden recurring mention or appearance of the same person, place, thing, or idea. Synchronicity, if you buy the whole Jungian schtick, is also meaningful and more or less implies some kind of intentionality in the universe. What I’m talking about can be uncanny, but not necessary meaningful. It’s a specific kind of coincidence.

Also, my idea has nothing to do with Sting.

Daily Themes

I don’t know if other people experience this. I don’t know that there’s not already a word for this that I just don’t know about (like my discovery of “The Narcisim of Minor Differences“, which I observed, but didn’t realize was a relatively well-known concept).

But there often seem to be these uncanny things that will pop up all at once in the course of a single day. (I can hear Helmecki already start to blather about a plate of shrimp, a la Repo Man…).

Take yesterday. I got a haircut first thing in the morning before work. AM news radio was on in the barber shop (story for another time: I deeply believe in only going to old man barbershops: none of this unisex crap for me). This station carried Paul Harvey, which is about par for the course for an old man barbershop. He was talking in his ridiculous Paul Harvey voice about the most ridiculous Paul Harvey stuff, the most jaw-dropping of which was a story about a bunch of old men playing golf in Florida stepping over their friend who had a heart attack and died on the 17th hole and playing through.

Then, after a long, busy day, as I was on my way out the door, a co-worker and I were talking about fat free snacks that use olestra, which inevitably made me bring up John’s Olestra prank (how I miss the early days of the web!). Which also got me talking about Computer Stew, his daily ZDNet webcast which was funded by overt sponsor plugs, a la the early days of TV. Which made my co-worker mention how Paul Harvey’s on-air ads must do more damage than good to their sponsor.

So after not thinking of Paul Harvey, probably since the Simpsons episode which contains a fictional book-on-tape by Paul Harvey called “Mr. and Mrs. Erotic American”, I am confronted with Paul Harvey twice in one day.

Plate, shrimp, plate of shrimp.

The Narcissism of Minor Differences

I just stumbled on a useful idea of Freud’s called “the narcissism of minor differences”. File under “I never knew there was a word for that”. It seems like such a prevalent part of human experience & behavior that it seems obvious that there should be. Here’s a succinct definition which I lifted from here:

Why are Republicans so hateful toward Bill Clinton when he is more like them than virtually any other Democrat? He has pushed through many of their favorite policies, such as cutting welfare, promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement and proposing that portions of Social Security reserves be privatized. You would think Republicans would regard him among their favorite Democratic presidents. Instead, the opposite is true. They seem determined to kill him politically through character assassination fueled by a hatred that is hard to understand.

Sigmund Freud had a brilliant explanation for this type of animosity: the narcissism of minor differences. The psychoanalyst contended that human beings express their most virulent hatred toward those who are just slightly different from themselves. This is because slight differences pose a greater psychological threat to ones core sense of self (ergo: narcissism) than those who are extremely different from ourselves. Freud used this concept as an explanation for the most heinous forms of aggression.

I originally saw it in this Globe article about transatlantic relations.