Are You Worthy of Serendipity?

Serendipity is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

Recently, we observed that it isn’t sufficient merely to be present when serendipity occurs. We must be able to recognize it, and act on it.

Here’s an example: When I went out with my grandmother, a short, barrel-shaped, Russian woman whom I called Baba, always seemed to find money on the ground. Not just dropped pennies, either — she often found paper money, sometimes five- and ten-dollar bills. One day I asked her, “Baba, why do you always find money?” She replied, “Because I’m looking for it.”

It seemed obvious, in retrospect. The serendipity was there in that the money was there. But Baba was worthy of it because she looked for it, and picked it up when she found it.

Such is indicated by the etymology of the word, given as “1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

Note that accidents alone did not provide the Three Princes with serendipity, but also sagacity. Sagaciousness is defined as “having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment; shrewd. synonyms: wise, clever, intelligent, knowledgeable, sensible, sage.

This is why, although the world is full of happy accidents, some benefit more than others. We must be of a disposition to not merely recognize serendipity, but to seize it. We must cultivate and exercise, like a muscle, our keenness, alertness patience, and curiosity leading to questioning, thinking, stringing along multiple threads in our mind.

In addition to curiosity, interest, caring, and playfulness, we must also exercise emotional control to avoid the desire for immediate outcome. We must be able to discern the potential significance in apparent insignificance.

Here is the real-life example that led to this discussion. Joe made a demo app for a potential customer. The app included a pull-down list of countries.

Joe showed it to Will and Nico. Nico asked if the pull-down list worked by typing the first letter of the country name. Will randomly typed a V, then idly scrolled to the bottom of the list, where he found Åland, with the peculiar Nordic diacritical mark above the Å.

After some discussion about alphabetizing and modifying the list manually, Will looked up Åland because he’d never heard of it before. Åland is a semi-autonomous island hain stretching from the coast of Finland to the coast of Sweden, including the light station on the shared island of Märket.

We searched a bit more on Google, and found a series of travel articles in Finnish. Using Goole Translate, we managed to haggle some English coherence out of the Finnish author’s rather articulate writing. He travels a lot, it seems, and there were many fine pictures of South America and Patagonia.

I wonder how many people have ever heard of Åland and Märket? That alone makes it a pretty cool place to know about. And while it doesn’t make much difference to my daily routine, it enriches the tapestry of my background knowledge of the world I live in.

Eventually, the idea of Åland and Märket will appear in a story. Perhaps it is related to Sable’s homeland, Farpoint. The possibilities are endless.

Plus, Åland and Märket made our official List of Places to Sail To, which portends further enrichment in the future.

Here are a couple of Wikipedia articles:

Here is the cool article by the Finnish guy:

It’s in Finnish, but Google will translate it for you, after a fashion. The rest of his site is worth perusing, if you’re feeling serendipitous.

Questions, curiosity, caring, interest, and the impetus to take that extra step, all are necessary for the Serendipitous. Exercise your serendipity. It will strengthen like a muscle and enhance your life.

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