Angels Everywhere: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

I drive past the cemetery in my neighborhood nearly every day, but for some reason, I noticed an angel on one of the gravestones for the first time on my run last weekend. Intrigued, I took Coban there the next day for a game of "find the angels."

Apparently some people take a good deal of solace in the concept of the guardian angel. Quite a few were part of the headstones themselves, but even more had been placed on top or worked into some sort of decorative arrangement.

The idea of seeing one angel and then finding over 20 once I started looking reminds me of that thing that happens so often, where you run into a person or a word or an idea and then keep seeing he/she/it again and again. And of course, this experience has a name: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. I like the way this article explains it, which is essentially that the brain has a preference for patterns and tends to group like things together. So even though you may have seen 1000 things that were not like that other, you remember the one that was.  

Depending on your perspective, the realization that your brain is simply latching onto patterns rather than truly identifying a remarkable coincidence can seem good or bad. Bad, in that it seems to argue against the concept of fate, as science usually does (and there's that chick-flick-loving part of me that really likes the idea of fate). Yet in some ways, doesn't it also offer something hopeful? If you can find a re-occurring series of things just by looking, doesn't that mean you should probably keep searching for whatever it is you hope to find? 

Gratitude is supposed to work this way. Perhaps it's Badder-Meinhof at work, but the concept of gratitude as something that can transform your life seems to be everywhere these days. It seems the more you take time to notice what you're grateful for, the more satisfied you will be. I've been tryingit, and it seems to actually work. Mind trick or not, I love the idea that you might be able to find more good things simply by taking the time to appreciate the ones you already have.