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Symbol and Synchronicity in the Crash of the Columbia

The loss of the Columbia space shuttle is suffused with symbols begging for attention. Columbia is named, in part, after Christopher Columbus and symbolically points to the very discovery of the American nation. Strangely, on the threshold of America’s preemptive invasion of Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction, the shuttle’s hold contained the first Israeli astronaut who in 1981 himself participated in a preemptive attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor to eliminate its capacity for developing weapons of mass destruction. An uncanny echo, but certainly not the only one.

As we are on the precipice of a war with Iraq, the whole Arab world screams that it is not Iraq but America’s relationship with Israel and the Palestinian crisis that is the root cause of all Arab anti-American sentiment and certainly all terrorism. Suddenly the Columbia crashes with an Israeli astronaut over George Bush’s home state as debris rains down on “Palestine, Texas.” One cannot help but hear these mysterious reverberations.

Similarly, just as the very essence of Israel is intimately connected to the holocaust as a place of refuge against the worst evil ever perpetrated by man against man, so we cannot help but notice another coincidence: Israel’s astronaut was the son of a holocaust survivor.

These synchronicities drape themselves over the landscape of our sadness, almost overshadowing the advent of the America’s next major war. But perhaps the word is not overshadow but foreshadow, and the meaning of the Columbia disaster—if we are to hazard a guess about these coincidences—is that it is the American relationship with Israel that is leading toward disaster. Certainly many in the Islamic world will see this as a preternatural sign that America’s connection to Israel will result in its annihilation.

On the other hand, if our focus is on Israel, then the meaning might be that it is Israel’s relationship with America which is leading it toward disaster, not the other way round, and here we have a more immediate meaning since an invasion of Iraq will more likely result in retaliation upon Israel than upon the U.S. mainland.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung’s teachings about synchronicities-as-oracles might echo similar sentiments. The fact that all this happened on the first day of the Chinese New Year—a terrible omen in ancient China—adds another element of foreboding. Let us hope such things are egregious speculations and that there is no symbolic significance here, merely meaningless coincidences, a few loose tiles, a painful accident, and the loss of very dear people whose parent’s grief galvanizes a nation’s remorse.

JERRY KROTH, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. He can be reached at: anya@znet.com

 

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Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor Emeritus from the graduate division of psychology at Santa Clara University. He may be contacted at his website, collectivepsych.com.

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