Serendipity. That’s one of my pet names for Sarah, along with Sarasota, Serafina, and Triceratops. I remember first learning the word ‘serendipity’ as a young adolescent and being utterly charmed by the idea, the word itself something delightful I’d come upon by accident. Since we found our Sarah at the Cherryland Humane Society, much to our good fortune, the name she already had then, Sarah, has come to mean much more to us over the years, layered over with new meanings as our time together accumulates.
But where is serendipity to be found? The dictionary I’m consulting (an enormous, heavy thing it is, too, but I do not wish it abridged or shrunken or digitized!) gives “good fortune; luck” as the second meaning of the word, while the first, I’m intrigued to learn, is “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident” (Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Fully Revised and Updated, 1996). In this first meaning, serendipity is a faculty possessed by a person, such as musical talent or being good at solving puzzles. So you or I or someone else might already “have” serendipity. Or maybe you think you don’t?
My hunch is that serendipity, like so many other abilities, can always be improved with practice and that practicing to improve serendipity involves nothing more than keeping one’s eyes and ears and attention open to the world and perhaps venturing down a different path from time to time. Here I think of what my friend said about people “taking orders” from GPS and failing to see the big picture or realize how many choices are available to readers of maps.
Certainly it must help, to be serendipitous, never to think of any situation or place or event that you’ve “been there and done that,” because it might be different this time around. Aren’t you an older and wiser person? Maybe more relaxed – or more confident – or more adventurous? And even if you think you haven’t changed a bit, circumstances themselves are never exactly the same from one occasion to the next, are they?
As I typed the first draft of these sentences, a woman had come into my bookstore and was taking her time browsing the aisles. I was delighted! How often, it seems, people don’t take time to browse. They may buy a book they already wanted, but the rest of my treasures lie undiscovered, not buried at all but right out in plain sight, and this is true not only of the used books but even the new ones.
Here are a few treasures awaiting the adventurous and serendipitous browser at Dog Ears Books this first week of December 2014. I would write more, but I need to open one of these books....