according to Wikipedia, ‘Serendipity’ is an unplanned fortunate discovery. it is a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery. of allowing for chance finds, and accepting that what is found is not necessarily what was being looked for.
it’s everyone’s favorite word right now and exciting to experience. more so in the current atmosphere of pandemic induced fear and uncertainty. finding fond and deep insights from random encounters on the interwebs is a magical experience.
the keyword here is fortunate. nobody wants unpleasant things happening to them. but what if what we consider unpleasant is the best thing that could possibly happen to us at this point in time?
old man and the horse
in all probability you’ve heard this story before, but in case you haven’t, here’s a gist.
when an old man begets misfortune, the people of the village offer their sympathies. but the old man only shrugs it off with a ‘who knows if it’s good or bad?’ i’d imagine he’d have used this emoji 🤷🏻♂️ of the conversation was happening over a group chat 💬
as misfortune upon misfortune befalls him, he has nothing more to say to the people showering sympathy but the same words ‘who knows if it’s good or bad?’
when the tide changes and the old man receives a truckload of good fortune, the villagers are eager to show their appreciation and cheer the old man. to which he again repeats his oft spoken phrase ‘who knows if it’s good or bad?’ 🤷🏻♂️
the villagers are flummoxed by the old man’s statements and are left scratching their heads as to why the old man says the same thing regardless of the circumstances. why do you think?
Misery is what happiness rests upon. Happiness is what misery lurks beneath. Who knows where it ends?
Tao Te Ching
safety and danger
so if we can’t really be sure if what happens is good or bad fortune, then how do we identify serendipity from… wait! what’s it’s opposite?
isn’t it strange that we spend our lives looking forward to random chance good fortune, while closing ourselves to random chance misfortune? of course not. because who wants misfortune? and of course that takes us back to the previous section and our old man.
if you dive deeper into this, modern man has built entire civilisations and empires to protect us from the randomness of nature’s jungle. where every second might bring random opportunities and dangers. we’ve successfully hidden ourselves from nature’s magic (who knows if it’s good or bad?)
and yet, here we are, seeking the same magic of chance from the concrete jungles we’ve created. where millions of uniquely different minds and bodies hustle about just seconds away from a chance encounter. smaller towns and villages offer limited possibilities so we see migration towards the larger cities.
now that we have the interwebs, we’ve opened up a new wilderness; the virtual jungle. another avenue for randomness to manifest and offer the infinite possibility of random chance encounters (who knows if it’s good or bad?)
i find it so amusing that we’ve built civilisation to hide from the jungles of yore and take refuge in safety and certainty. and we still crave that magic of danger and uncertainty. everyone wants to experience a breath taking moment but no one wants to be chased by a sabre toothed tiger.
so am i still searching for serendipity? for many years of my life, i traveled constantly, met so many different people, played so many differing roles, spoke various languages, hopped between the lowest and the highest strata of society. every minute was magical. every moment was ripe with opportunity and filled with danger. if you want the good, you gotta be open to the bad. then again, who knows which is which. what if what you think is a bug, is actually a feature?
and it’s a miracle i’m alive today, who knows if that’s good or bad?