Kita’s Brown Bag to cover life-changing effects of coincidence

Some might be taken aback by prose writer-in-residence Joe Kita’s Brown Bag lecture.

“It’s a little out there,” Kita said.

Kita is Week Nine’s prose writer-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. With his Brown Bag, “Things That Make You Go, ‘Hmmm,’ ” he’ll discuss how coincidence can affect — and even change — a person’s life. His lecture begins at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

There are all kinds of coincidences: serendipitous ones, surreal ones, synchronous ones, Kita said. His lecture grew out of an article he wrote for Men’s Health on the science behind coincidences, which he found intriguing.

“There’s lots of different theories about what is behind coincidence: that it’s just coincidence, that it’s the law of probability, or, maybe, there is some architect of the universe,” Kita said. “Maybe it’s just ourselves trying to believe that we have a purpose in life.”

What’s most exciting for Kita is the idea that people experience coincidences every day that can change their lives, and that’s something he wants to make his audience aware of so they can act on it, he said. Kita has seen it for himself — it helped bring about the life he has today.

“If you’re honest with yourself and you look back, your life is really all coincidences,” Kita said.

Kita met his wife on a blind date and said, without that coincidence, he might not even know her or have his children. Part of his career — teaching memoir writing on a cruise ship for three to four months every year — came from another string of coincidences.

He wrote a book titled Another Shot: How I Relived My Life in Less Than a Year, which resulted in an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” After that, he received a call from the entertainment of Crystal Cruises, asking him to teach memoir writing.

“But there’s a coincidence — number one, I wrote this book; number two, I got on Oprah’s show; number three, I get this crazy call; and number four, I act on it,” Kita said.

All of these coincidences have led Kita to where he is now, he said. It’s easy to get upset when an irksome coincidence happens, such as a flight getting canceled, but Kita said adopting the mentality that these coincidences happen for a reason can improve one’s life, which is something he’ll address with his lecture.

“There’s actually science behind this now — people have investigated this and studied it,” Kita said. “There’s actually a plan that I’ll end the talk with called the ‘coincidence prescription,’ which gives five easy steps to a less stressful and more successful life, all based on using the coincidence in your life, or what’s called ‘positive paranoia.’ ”

What fascinates Kita most about coincidence is that it’s a universal phenomenon people experience — something that can “give us goosebumps” because it’s so weird, he said.

“Men especially like to think that we’re the captains of our fate, the captains of our ship,” Kita said. “But I’m going to try to convince people otherwise. And a lot of the stress in our lives comes from trying to control it and trying to be the captain of our destiny.”

It is important to have ambition and carve out a path for one’s self, he said, but trying to be “the architect of your own life” can be straining, a lesson he hopes people will take with them when they leave his lecture.

“You will be amazed what happens when you relax and see what kind of opportunities come to you and what doors open for you,” Kita said. “It’s an amazing thing.”