“occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way”
Synonyms – chance; accident; more lucky; fortuitous; unexpected;
unanticipated; unforseen; un-looked for; coincidental.
I recently had an encounter on an airplane which the other person later referred to as serendipity. More about that in a moment. For now, let’s lose ourselves in the idea of serendipity. The word itself is fun to say. Try it. Serendipity. There is something enjoyable about the way the end of the word – dipity- clicks together, just like there is something enjoyable about serendipitous moments.
The meaning of the word developed within a Persian fairy tale: The Three Princes of Serendip. Serendip is the ancient Persian name for Ceylon – modern day Sri Lanka. The three princes were brothers, wise heroes who “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.
Serendipity therefore involves two components for discovery – “accident” and “sagacity”.
Accident refers to the unplanned, the chance, the external elements, the parts we can’t control, life un-looked for.
Sagacity refers to the sage within us, the deep insight, wisdom, astuteness, the internal elements, our engagement with the moment which adds depth to an event otherwise insignificant.
So, is there serendipity in your life? Accidents and Sagacity? Was my encounter with a stranger on a plane journey serendipitous?
Due to factors out of both of our control, such as randomly allocated seat numbers, other strangers wanting to swap seats and even me making a last minute change of a flight, I ended up being sat with the same person on two separate flights. We kept pretty good company, laughing and tangentially talking our way through the flights. To borrow a term from Fight Club, my ‘single-serving’ plane seat neighbour quickly became a friendly confidante, someone to get to know. It met the definition for serendipitous: “discovered by chance” and “happy” and “beneficial”. It was indeed a fortuitous chance encounter; life un-looked for.
Or, was it actually life being looked-for? Perhaps we were both looking for a chatty travel partner that day, so were astute to the opportunity when ‘chance’ presented itself. Accidents and chance encounters could easily pass us by, and remain simple random acts of coincidence until we engage with them sagaciously; staying astute to the moment and see it for what it may be – serendipity.
To notice these moments we must have space in our lives. Space to notice, time to engage, and indeed space for fate to enter. My previous twelves months have involved very little time for chance, instead involving over-planning, a demanding scheduling, coordinated multiple Outlook calendars, too-tight deadlines, pedantic word counts, early nights, intense structure, order, just holding it together, spontaneity smothered. Is this sounding familiar to you?
So, 2019 – time to create space, play more, plan less, spontaneous more, open up and allow accidents and sagaciousness in; let’s follow in the footsteps of the Princes of Serendip.
Time for life un-looked for.