The joy of serendipity

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No work today.

I read the SMS on Monday with surprise, delight and near disbelief. Then I realised the universe had conspired to serve my needs.

With less than three hours of sleep on Sunday night, I was thinking, with severely reduced brain capacity, how to get out of taking the long drive to the dull office and sitting behind a computer for the next nine hours.

But I checked the message again, marvelling at the serendipity that played out.

Serendipity, that rolls of the tongue so deliciously, has royal beginnings owing its origins to three princes.

Legend has it, according to

“A long time ago Three Young Princes of Serendip decided to go forth into the world in search of glory and treasures to honour their father and gain his favour.

“They decided not to travel as high-born princes but like every man, so that no one would seek to curry favour with them or to give them any special privileges.

“They found that by travelling in this manner they found much hardship and human suffering along the way.

“But they also discovered, quite unexpectedly, great and wonderful good in the most unlikely of situations, places and people.

“Upon their return home after a number of years of travelling, and telling their father and his court of all they saw and experienced, they decided to commemorate the experience of finding valuable and agreeable things not specifically sought, by creating a word.”

The word the three princes of Serendip decided upon was “serendipity.”

Another view from the McGill Journal of Medicine suggests:

“The word “serendipity” was entered into the lexicon by Horace Walpole in 1754. He had become intrigued with a Persian fairytale in which three princes of Serendip, (now Sri Lanka) travelled the world, “making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity (perception), of things they were not in quest of…”

“Walpole proposed the new word, but then went on to give rather mundane examples of its meaning. It is only recently that serendipity has acquired its rather grand and mysterious significance.

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines serendipity as “the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.”

Pasteur is known to have said, “Chance favours the prepared mind”, (sounding like a close relative of “fortune favours the brave”.

“However, in research, what serendipity really means in practical terms is that scientists discover things in the course of their investigations that they were not looking for. And these new findings are often not the products of cold logic.”

Ah, now that throws cold water on the whole idea. I’m dispensing with accuracy and sticky to my happy discovery that work as I know it was cancelled yesterday.

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