The other night I made a discovery at the library. It was the most excited I’d been at the library since I got a $25 fine waived by a sympathetic clerk who had no knowledge of my shameful history of overdue books.
My heart was pumping happily along as the discovery unfolded before me, until I realized that my discovery had absolutely no significance. It explained nothing, it made no connections worth pondering, it advanced human knowledge nary a hair’s breadth. It was in fact mere coincidence.
What I “discovered” was along the lines of the intriguing similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy that used to get passed around among middle-schoolers. (This list was surely propagated by someone who wanted to lend Kennedy the air of Lincoln’s presidential greatness by making comparisons such as this one: Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater; Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln, made by Ford.)
I was leafing through Harold Bloom’s new anthology of last poems (Till I End My Song). I skipped over most of the poems because they were a little depressing and harder to read than I had energy for, spending time instead with Bloom’s brief biography of each poet. When I got to English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I had a eureka! moment (which as I’ve said, ended up being a ur-a-quack-er moment). Coleridge had much in common with a writer who was born almost exactly 100 years later, Stephen Crane, who I had just poem-elfed.
Both men were both plagued by lifelong money and health problems, but that was not unusual for writers in their time. What rises to the level of coincidence is this:
- Both men were the 14th sons of clergymen.
- Both were eight when their fathers died.
- Both were precocious and incessant readers as children, and became brilliant young men who left college before graduating.
Drum roll for my favorite coincidence:
- They share the same initials!
File under Useless Information and enjoy your weekend.