Thursday, January 28, 2010


Is serendipity dying out?

It sounds like a funny question to ask, but I saw an article on this a couple of weeks ago. I have been wondering about it ever since,

Today is Serendipity Day, the anniversary of the day the word was coined. It comes from Serendip, the Persian name for Sri Lanka, and means the stumbling upon something fortunate while looking for something else, and being smart enough to recognize it. I tend to think of it as adding up 2 plus 2 and getting 4.3.

So, does serendipity happen as often as it used to? This question has come up because of the computer age, believe it or not. When we use computers to look for ideas, products, answers to questions, or to do research, the computer programs usually steer us right to what we asked for, and then gives us options that match our requests. You've seen this when you look for a specific book on a website, and then it tells you that you might also be interested in these other titles, all having to do with the same subject. This cuts out, or at least cuts down on, the possibility of running into a book you weren't actually looking for, but which will meet another need, which can happen when you just browse in a bookstore.

Because serendipity depends upon a person being sagacious enough to recognize the situation for what it is, I also wonder if our shorter attention spans are making it rarer. The fact that we tend to skim along from page to page on the web, or surf channel to channel on the tv, seems to have even the most attentive of us moving at a faster pace than ever. Are we passing up serendipitous opportunities because we just aren't spending enough time pondering, perusing, or digesting new information?

As I have thought about this topic, I have noticed myself slowing down a bit and taking closer looks at things. It paid off yesterday in me catching, out of the corner of my eye, a glimpse of something in a shopping cart of another shopper. I had wandered back to where the store has free coffee and found out the store once again carries a product they had stopped stocking at one point. I would not have searched for the item if I hadn't noticed it in her cart, especially as it is in the garden center now, instead of near pet food where it used to be. Serendipity? Luck? God's provision? (On that last one, yes, definitely, that is always part of it.) Whatever it is, I want to slow down and look and see more, not just glance all of the time.

If serendipity is being passed up now, I hope it makes a comeback.

Today is:

Bald Eagle Day

Clash Day

Daisy Day

Fun at Work Day

Hall of Fame Day

Independence Day, Rwanda

National Blueberry Pancake Day

National Kazoo Day

National Spieling Day

Rattlesnake Roundup Day

Rinkydinks Annual Snowball Fight

Serendipity Day

St. Charlemagne's Day

St. Thomas Aquinas's Day (patron of students, pencil makers, theologians)

Birthdays Today:

Elijah Wood, 1981
Nick Carter, 1980
Joey Fatone, Jr. 1977
Sarah McLachlan, 1968
Nicolas Sarkozy, 1955
Rick Warren, 1954
Alan Alda, 1936
Susan Sontag, 1933
Jackson Pollack, 1912
Robert Stroud, 1890 (The Birdman of Alcatraz)
Arthur Rubenstein, 1887
Colette, 1873
Jose' Marti, 1853
Peter the Great of Russia, 1775
St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225

Today in History:

The Walk to Canossa: The excommunication of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor is lifted by Pope Gregory VIII, 1077
The first Crusaders begins siege of Hosn-el-Akrad Syria, 1099
Pope Alexander VI gives his son Cesare Borgia as hostage to Charles VIII of France, 1495
Edward VI, age nine, succeeds his father Henry VIII as king of England, 1547
By the Edict of Orleans, the persecution of French Huguenots is suspended, 1561
Sir Thomas Warner found the first British colony in the Caribbean, on St. Kitts, 1624
The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded in St. Petersburg by Peter the Great, and implemented in the Senate decree (it was called St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences until 1917), 1724
Horace Walpole, in a letter to Horace Mann, coins the word serendipity, 1754
London's Pall Mall is the first street lit by gaslight, 1807
Pride and Prejudice is first published in the United Kingdom, 1813
In a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, the world's largest snowflakes are reported, being 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) thick, 1887
The first Jewish US Supreme Court justice, Louis Brandeis, is appointed by Wilson, 1916

1 comment:

  1. The older I get, the easier it is to take my time and notice things I might have overlooked when I was younger and short on time.

    I hope you have a nice afternoon.


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