The 23 Enigma – three stories

I’m a Discordian – which means nothing other than I think religion is a joke, so I claim membership of a joke religion. One of the articles of faith, in a religion that believes nothing, is that there’s something going on with the number 23. Or maybe there isn’t, or maybe there might be sometimes and might not be sometimes. Or something.

Anyway, Discordians often notice that the number 23 is associated with synchronicities in the world. It might well be that we’re looking out for them, but things can get really weird. I’ve got three personal stories that people might find interesting, intriguing or downright scary. Or they might not. Anyway, here they are – they’re all true as much as any human recollection is true:

Many years ago, when I moved to London, I had trouble finding work. So, usually on a Friday, I would often go to the pub with my girlfriend’s colleagues. We’d talk random shit for hours while getting drunk. One night in July 2003, we got on to the 23 Enigma.

The main person I was talking to make the “It’s only because you’re looking for it” argument, so I suggested that, in following week, before we met in the pub again, I’d look for 23s and he’d look for another number – I can’t remember which one, so let’s say 17. He agreed, we drank more and then went home.

Within a couple of days, David Beckham revealed his new Real Madrid shirt. He said he chose the number 23 to honour his hero Michael Jordan. Every newspaper front-page, every news broadcast had the number 23 very prominently displayed. Some papers even wrote about the enigmatic number 23 to explain the obsession with the number. This coverage continued for much of the week. Suffice it to say, when we met again the following Friday, there was no debate about which number cropped up more.

A year or so later, my girlfriend had a new job (I’d got one by this stage as well, so all was good). She had to give a talk at some new staff thing – on any topic – so she, remembering the incident above, decided to talk about the 23 Enigma. So far, so good. She gave the talk, it went well and she sat down.

The guy beside her said something like “that’s funny”, pulled up his sleeve and showed her his tattoo – the number 23. They laughed and went to the pub later on. I get a call many hours later from my now drunk girlfriend, relating this story and talking about her colleague Mark with the 23 tattoo. That’s when the coincidence hit – it turned out that I knew Mark and had written about him as part of a band called The Chaos Engine, where he was sometimes known as Mr. Eris (a nod to Discordianism being based around Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos).

The final story was many years later. I’d bought a few DC superhero comics by Grant Morrison, author of the Invisibles, chaos magician – someone well acquainted with the 23 Enigma, Discordianism and all the rest. I didn’t really like them, so I decided to sell them as a bundle on Ebay. They sold and the buyer paid immediately.

I put them in an envelope, printed the address label, to see that the buyer lived across the road from me, same address bar the number. I live in 104, he lived in… number 23. I walked across the road, rang the doorbell of number 23, he answered and I gave him the comics. We both smiled at the ridiculous synchronicity, with the number 23 looking at us from his front door.

So that’s them. It’s hard to see how these can be explained away with the “It’s only because you were looking for them explanation” – these go beyond simple coincidences. Is there something else going on? Does Eris actually exist – or was she brought into existence by people starting a religion based on her in the 1960s – and is she messing with us? Who the hell knows. But they do make great stories, don’t they?

Hail Eris.

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Author: Donnacha DeLong

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Donnacha DeLong is an NUJ activist, journalist and online communications consultant with more than 15 years' professional experience.

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