1 Apr 2009

Teapots Happen v1

Posted by Teapots Happen

February 17, 2006

(Below is the email in which I wrote about the teapot coincidence for the very first time – to Megh, a former member of the Atheist student group that I’d been President of in college, and whom  I’d recently and randomly reconnected with online.

… I am interested in the topic of … and I hate to say this, more than you can ever know – especially after putting “The Celestine Prophecy” on my eternal Black List of Books that Prove Humanity is Retarded … synchronicity.

That was the first time I’ve dared type the word, all smacking of self-fulfilling pattern-seeking, an irrational foundation unpon which all manner of delusional edifices are constructed. Synchronicity.

Anwyay, the guy who lives in my basement has this older girlfriend, a sort of hippie chick who went to Berkeley, now she’s finishing up med school. The other day, after discussing the Teapot – we’ll get to that soon, I’m working on it – and she looks me in the eye and simply says: “Yes, I’ve noticed a swirl of synchronicity around you.”

Huh. A Swirl of Synchronicity. S.O.S.

She said this after hearing about the Teapot. And that’s what I’m writing to you about today. This is the first time I’ve tried putting any of this down into words, so it should be interesting.

Some context on the way to the point:

So as you know I’m the guy who has styled one part of his outward persona into “Max Action,” Urban Explorer. And it is built on a lifetime of loving caves, tunnels, rooftops, basements – spaces between, spaces forgotten, spaces forbidden. Since I can remember anything, it’s been a love – and may or may not serve as a metaphor for my mental activities and preferences and motivations as well, but that’s another ramble – anyway.

I have lived in the house I now live in for 8 years, and it has been around since 1911.

Just context.

After renting it for 8 years, I bought the house earlier this month.

A day after I signed the paperwork, I felt compelled to explore the crawlspace – a space under the stairs that go down to the basement. There’s a board covering up the entrance, with no handle, and you have to pull the board out.


Nothing too hard to deal with – but – and to me, this is one of the Weird Things involved – in 8 years of living here, 8 years of Action Squadding – I have never, ever been into the crawlspace, in my own house.

I’ve never looked into it. It’s been under my nose all this time, and I’ve never had the curiosity, even once, to pull it open and see what is in there.

But now, suddenly, it was time. So I got the super suction-cup window-worker tool I liberated from Foshay Tower when I worked downtown, and used it to pull the board out of its frame. Inside, it was about what I’d expected – plastic over dirt floor, a million cobwebs, two dead mice, 3 old shoes, 1 rusted can.

I had purchased a dust mask just for this occasion, so I strapped it on, grabbed a flashlight, and crawled in.

crawlspace access panel

And I felt something under the plastic, embedded in the dirt.

With a little effort, I was able to get my arm under the plastic, get hold of the mysterious buried object, and pull it out into the light.

It was a Teapot – white-crusted aluminum, handle long since rotted away, and looking at it, I felt something in brain shift, only a slight shift, but deep.

A shift with far-flung implications, easy to make but perhaps not possible to ever shift back from.

But more context is required.

Flashback to January – it was a mystical experience I had while hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore on LSD that really knocked me for a existential loop, leaving me reeling about pleasantly, believing in magic for the next few days.


experiencing the Oneness of all things - Tomales Point CA

experiencing the Oneness of all things - Tomales Point CA

I was in a strange period of openness after this. The magical thinking was lingering on long after the drug had faded. I was on a roll of following some strange intuition, a voice that pulled me where it seemed I needed to go. I felt in control of my life in a way I never had before – by letting go of reason and deliberation, silencing the mental chatter, and just – doing.

And it worked. My house transformed from an intractably cluttered, dark, dusty space to a open, light, clean space almost effortlessly, and in doing so seemed to mirror the transformations going on elsewhere in my mind and life. I won’t go too much into that, but let’s say it was a fertile time for change – and I’d even say positive change. Good things.

Somewhere in that period, in the same couple of day period in which I also decided to email you after randoming into your website, I went to Unique Thrift store.

By the end of the trip through the store, the cart was filled with stuff, as is usual – I put in anything I like on the way through, and then jettison that which does not still appeal before checking out.

As my 3 friends and I sorted through the cart, we set up a nice display of the collection we’d deliberately amassed of “inanimate objects represented with faces” on a shelf, and determined what of the rest of it we actually wanted to buy. Many things were discarded, but I could not bring myself to get rid of one specific item, yet found myself struggling aloud to justify why I felt so compelled to buy it.

But I was on this post-Point Reyes magical thinking kick, and I believed in letting myself be guided – by instinct, by magic, by whatever the hell it is.

“I don’t know – there’s just something satisfying about it – I like the materials, the construction – the connotations are somehow pleasant. I don’t know. I just feel like I want this in my house. I don’t drink tea much now, but maybe I’ll start.”

Yes, of course the object was a teapot.

I’d seen it from halfway across the store on a top shelf, and been drawn to it, even though I don’t usually shop from the housewares section, and have never considered myself to be the kind of person who owns – let alone one who buys – a teapot. The tea I have drank has been the instant kind – and this was an old-school teapot, made for loose tea leaves.

So I bought it, still trying to explain why to my friends and, mainly, to myself.

This was one to three days before my expedition into the crawlspace.

I took the teapot home, and tried to make sense of it – brewed some instant tea packs in it.

The tea wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special, either.

A couple days later, I bought my house.

That very night, I decided to explore the crawlspace.

And you know this part – I found a second teapot in there – buried beneath this house that I have known since I was a baby, in which I have lived for the last 8 years.


teapot wtf

teapot wtf

And the teapot I found buried under my house was identical to the teapot I’d brought home from the store a few days earlier.

Same size.

Same materials.

Same design.

Same hinges.

Same spout.

The same teapot.




Sure, there were some differences, but not enough. The store teapot still had a handle. The house teapot still had the little ball on a chain on top. The only real difference was the stamped brand on the bottom of each teapot. Different-named companies, sure – but using the same mold, the same design, to make the same teapot.

Later, a friend would take the bottom half of the tea leaf container inside of the store teapot, and screw it into the top half of the house teapot. It fit perfectly.

Of course.

The two teapots now sit together in my living room, their spouts together over a green stone I took home from Point Reyes – some kind of altar to magic, to synchronicity.

I don’t pretend to know what they “mean.” I attach no theories, no belief systems, no things I want to believe.

I don’t need to know.

But I’m glad I have them – to remind me.

There are things strange and beautiful in this world, mysterious things that cannot be held in any worldview, comprehended by any human mind.

Once, this would have bothered me.

Now, it makes me happy.


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13 Responses to “Teapots Happen v1”

  1. (Megh – who was in the atheist group with me in college – responded to my teapot email with the following email )

    the impulse was strong to rattle out an immediate response to your narrative of crawlspace creeping, creepy synchronicity, but i also wanted to give it time to set. deepen. steep.

    it was very nice, and i do hope (in regards to your PPS, for your reference, “I hope it doesn’t come across as stupid”) that you didn’t think my silence thus far indicated a mystified disinterest or worse, dismissal, a yeah right, gabe is nuts, batty, bonkers (and boring me), a rube irrational, off his punk-rocker. on the contrary.
    with all the patterns coinciding, all the curious coming together, speculation won’t make it actually mean anything. no more than picked up pennies bring you luck (but only head-side up). but when it just makes you happy… a half-second or whole-life warmth of maybe there’s something to this life that you’re living that isn’t just science or the relation of words in rhetoric, far from a full-on theology but still a curved feeling that throws you to your back, off the track you thought was terminal, fuck fantastic cosmologies! assbackward astrologies! heterogenesis genealogies! as though you didn’t give birth to yourself. when it just makes you happy, that’s all the reason you need to believe it. it’s not having faith in it so much as noticing it, and not turning away. you are robbed not of sense but of arrogance when you admit you see the flicker, when you know it’s pretty and not because it’s tricking you, giving you powers or perfection or better-than-everybody, just a calm and steady this-is-not-everything, but it’s something. beautiful. that you don’t want to explain, not because you can’t, though you can’t. it just doesn’t need it.
    i don’t believe in god or ghosts, UFOs or guiding light. but i’d be hard-pressed to explain what i do believe or to exhaust the list of what i don’t. i mentioned a bit my buddha breathing, my t’ai chi tingling. it started my senior year of college and edged the full circling, which didn’t bring me back to where i was—it was a circle but upward, a spiraling. i came to school a heathen, no doubt, and was chased down by some clipboard-toting UMAHite who convinced me to come to the first meeting. i will not overemphasize UMAH in my young, impressionable life, because it isn’t the truth (that it had great emphasis or that i was still particularly impressionable), but i will say… the group mentality, though welcoming and comforting (hey! it’s okay! to fuck the skull of jesus, to crossbust and christian jeer!), was also oppressive. at that age i was well on my way to abandoning all illogical things, but UMAH sped it up and was brutal with it—there was an inescapable culture of shaming for anything remotely “irrational.” again—not to overemphasize it. but it’s one thing to not believe in something and another to openly murder it. eradicate those things that are kind of nice, like not believing in heaven and hell, but still clinging to a vestigial soul structure if only in the words you use, or equating an admittedly fully emotional high to something of the spiritual. that was seen as stupid. totally unacceptable. this was especially frustrating as a writer—trying to be true to my introspective nature but having no language or reference for the sacred. i couldn’t speak of experiences as holy or magical or even interconnected. synchronic. i only had science, the defiance of everything i couldn’t explain.

    one particular instance i remember… then with a bit of anxiousness not-knowing-what, but now with a smile. i don’t recall who the woman was, but she came to give us a mini-lecture that opened to discussion.

    she had something to do with healing light or magical colors or sound waves—some kind of new age mystical cult crap. she was bright eyed; we were wolf grinned, respectfully nodding and “riiiiiiiiiiight right right right” (*wrong*) when we weren’t ripping her apart. what i remember most was her opening remark. she knew she was in danger but still upbeat. unlike the maranatha intellectual gangfights, this wasn’t about conversion, this was about conversation, but it still wasn’t going to be pretty. we were all gonna be adults, of course, but snickering. scathing. examining each of us around the conference table, she said something to the effect of, “I can tell just by looking that many of you are old souls. to be here, you would have to be.” …as though by living many lives we had come to the conclusion that we had not lived many lives at all.

    from among us came agreeable but sandpapery chuckles. we’re godless, lightless, anachronistic anarchists, lady—we don’t believe in souls.

    we don’t.

    but the silence-moment that followed wasn’t completely wrought by wow, she’s daft. some, for some, of the discomfort was curiosity, a wraparound shiver, a waver in a few of us cold-blooded atheists. i felt it in myself, the dead romantic, the idiot i kept trying to kill who wanted to ask, and sincerely, not ironically, “who? who are the old souls in this room? who has come this far, questioned this much? …am i one of them?”

    despite my uncontrollable slip, at heart and in truth she was the only one in that cutthroat den who believed that shit. she was whacked, she was cracked, she was hopped up on hippie, but only she could bestow what we didn’t already know—for a moment, give us back our souls and magic. give us doubt that wouldn’t send us reeling, just restore the natural wondering. bring back the questioning that isn’t defiance of or anger at religion, that isn’t frantic for answers to settle the burning. it’s just there. and it’s pleasant.

    she quickly dropped off the deep end and returned with overflowing bowls of mumbo jumbo bullshit gumbo i think we were supposed to slurp down but just stared at, mouths agape and better sense amused. and that’s just fine. however jarring that initial snag, i didn’t walk away changed. i needed a few more years of everything dead. then i started paying closer attention to how i breathe. at first i resisted heavily the metaphysical somethingings of t’ai chi and breath awareness but eventually figured out the big so what, it makes me happy. unlike the ugliness in other irrationalities that i always rejected in religions, it has nothing to do with justifying injury to other human beings or cloaking the things i can’t change, being submissive or stubborn or just plain senseless. it removes weight and brings light. beauty and mystery. when i try to explain or even describe it too much i start to feel foolish. the urge to self-censor starts blaring, danger! danger! you’re being dumb! but no… i’m not.

    i’m not buying in or selling out, abandoning my self or for a moment, being duped. i’m just paying attention. and it feels good.

    glad to hear you’ve been noticing, too.


    Meg Holle

  2. […] of the atheist group I’d led in college, and I’d first put the teapot tale into words in an email to her. We’d been talking about synchronicity and the weirdness of reality constantly since […]

  3. […] wasn’t until after the teapots that I ever thought about Cleo as a meaningful coincidence – how she just happened to come […]

  4. This has been a very rational year for me with only two events of synchronicity until the reading of this post.

    I knew there was a connection before I saw the name Max Action.


    Robert A Vollrath

  5. […] afterward, this phenomenon was not repeated. I had to laugh out loud – it was just too much. Teapots or not, I simply couldn’t let myself believe that the crashing waves were really the universe […]

  6. […] “teapot-esque” – Becky already had installed her hook at her place so I can’t photograph them […]


    Cup Hooks & Milk « teapots happen

  7. A lovely post about synchronicity. You ought to continue posting on this topic.


    Barbara Martin

  8. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://img3.etsystatic.com/il_fullxfull.290439807.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.etsy.com/listing/87226481/comet-vintage-aluminum-teapot-wteaball&usg=__DPbk8NkAbJh_P79E7vRVxNkLhu8=&h=1199&w=1361&sz=204&hl=en&start=42&zoom=1&tbnid=nFnpDJ2lpMRNNM:&tbnh=132&tbnw=150&ei=RpkdT_D_EejCsQKpip3CCw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Daluminum%2Bteapot%26start%3D21%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26gbv%3D2%26tbm%3Disch&itbs=1
    Disclaimer: there is nothing synchronous about this find. But it comes on the heels of a VERY synchronous “doomsday clock” synchronicity, and no I’m not afraid that the world is nigh! In fact I found this one wierdly comforting in the way synchronicities happen….
    I have some very religous family members whose observances I diplomatically skirt around. Some background: One of my 2 mother-in- laws is a pentacostalist whose views deeply disillusioned my husband in his youth. Every few years an end of the world date appears, and we’re fortunate to still be here 🙂 I think we’ve weathered 7 endoftheworlds so far! 😉
    So whenever a date gets proposed, we have a gentle laugh.
    Recently, I was reading a series of WWII articles on Wikipedia. At the very bottom of the page, the last line and in fact the very last link on the page, was a tiny linked 2 word reference, “Doomsday Clock,” which is a loaded word to be sure… I’m ashamed to say I’ve never heard of…fascinated, I clicked on this link! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_Clock
    I read the article, and joked with my husband later that day, that we are 6 minutes to doomsday! He’d never heard of the clock either!
    The NEXT DAY: exactly 24 hours later! I was reading headlines on Google News, and found a link on Google News that rocked my world: “Atomic Scientists move the Doomsday clock 5 minutes to midnight!”

    It’s no doubt disturbing in context, that while reading about the doomsday clock for the first time, scientists had simultaneously agreed to change it! I’m thinking of hanging up a “reluctant oracle” shingle on my door…

    My synchronicities over the years have converted me from a hard atheist to a soft agnostic.
    I call it being interconnected in inexplicable ways…


    Sharon Woods

  9. I recently took delivery of two albino squirrels through a local rehab group in Minneapolis MN. I named one of them Binny on honor of your furry little friend. The other I named Allie. I feel so lucky to have these beautiful creatures in my life.

    Thank you for sharing Binnys story.

    Michael R. Cassola



  10. “So I bought it, still trying to explain why to my friends and, mainly, to myself.”

    So last weekend, my girlfriend Kristin came clean about something she’d been avoiding mentioning, glad to let me continue forgetting about … namely that she’d been one of my friends who’d come to the thrift store with me that day (http://www.actionsquad.org/crawlspace4.html) – and that I’d come to her not once but twice, teapot in hand, asking her if she agreed that there was something special it, and if I should buy it. The reason she didn’t care to remind me was that she’d responded in the negative – thinking I was being a bit foolish perhaps, and dismissing it as impractical – why would I buy a teapot, when I didn’t drink tea and the teapot wasn’t even functional, without a strainer?


    Of course, I don’t think anything bad of her for this – I was asking her opinion, she had no access to the irrational intuition that was driving me. In fact, I love that I sought out approval and admiration before making my purchase – and was denied it … but still bought the thing, anyway …


    Teapots Happen

  11. Interesting to read the story again from the perspective of your first “coming out” about it.

    I love Megh’s response. I can’t say that I was ever as hardened as the atheist group apparently made her (or as philosophically grounded in my dismissal of the irrational as you were), but this bit really rings a bell: “…give us back our souls & magic”.

    Here’s my description of the concept:
    “…I’m not really sure I ever had much first-hand experience with unseen powers, though I desperately wanted God to speak to me. I was superstitious until sometime in college when I let science fill all the voids, and believed that there was no mystery in the world that science couldn’t solve. Maybe I misinterpreted the nature of science, but I allowed myself to become cold and hard and boring. I didn’t believe in magic anymore.

    The loss of the belief in magic was tragic. I thought it was just about growing up–like when you find out Santa isn’t real. I also decided that God wasn’t real, an invention to end the fear in death or to control others.

    But then, synchronicity happened…”

    I also had an own “old soul” moment last summer. My husband’s friend was visiting from Mexico. There was a bit of a language divide, but we understood each other for the most part. One night I admitted to her that I’ve never enjoyed going to nightclubs or partying (I’d always carried this fact as a badge of shame, something I felt made me abnormal & anti-social and I rarely told anyone. And it’s weird that I told her because she works in Cancun in the nightclub scene and really enjoys partying.) And she told me about her aunt in Mexico who is apparently a healer of some kind. Somehow it was determined that the aunt and I share our birthdate–September 9th. She explained that her aunt believes that people that aren’t interested in partying are “old souls”, because they’ve already had the chance to experience all the craziness in their past lives and are now ready to turn their attention towards more important things. I immediately lost my shame and felt silly for carrying that baggage around with me all my life.


    Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez

  12. The loss of the belief in magic was tragic. I thought it was just about growing up–like when you find out Santa isn’t real. I also decided that God wasn’t real, an invention to end the fear in death or to control others.

    But then, synchronicity happened…”

    Yes! For me I guess I had to completely kill all spirituality as it was handed down to me (through Catholicism, organized religion, superstition) in order to find my spirituality – and for me, the combination of the psychedelic experience, mystical experience, and synchronicity were what nurtured its growth in the unlikely wasteland soil that remained after my years as a hardcore disbeliever.


    Teapots Happen

  13. Busy chaps them teapots. I got into syncs a couple of months ago and had my first biggie a few weeks ago. I had a vivid dream in which many odd things happened. The one thing that stood out in the dream that I saved ( I forgot everything else) was an ornate clock in the shape of a teapot. I felt strongly enough about it to email my girlfriend. Two days later we went to visit her mother who is in a hospice. Her mother showed me her new clock…it was a teapot clock. I nudged my girlfriend and she looked horrified but I just grinned. The clock had been bought by her sister a few days earlier and neither of us had seen or communicated with that her week. We asked her where she got it and she said she found it in a novelty store. So last night, imagine my surprise when I googled for Synchronity blogs and the fifth result was “teapots happen”. I had just been talking to gf about sync so I grinned and showed her the screen.