Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Serendipity is a word whose sound is as beautiful and charming as its meaning.

It refers to circumstances and situations where one makes fortuitous and happy discoveries unexpectedly, while actually seeking something else.

Believe it or not, it is a "made-up" word, in the sense that we know clearly who first used it, and in what sense. An English writer, Horace Walpole, first coined the term in 1754, when writing to a friend about an old Persian fairytale called "The Three Princes of Serendip" - Serendip being an old name for Ceylon or Sri Lanka. These three princes evidently were given to making accidental discoveries - not always useful at the time, mind you - but they came upon them when suddenly presented with a surprising array of observations and circumstances. The discoveries were in many ways quite incidental to the original purpose of their journeys.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I made an unexpected discovery in the Supermarket. I was probably looking for celery or mushrooms, but my eye was caught by this particular display of cheap children's toys and trinkets that they usually have on a rack at the end of each aisle. It was the glitter that caught my eye - ten narrow tubes of different colours, something I thought could be useful in my craftwork. But it was only when I was unhooking a couple of packets to put in my trolley that I saw the adhesive foam pads. The picture does not show it clearly, but each pad has dozens of different little shapes - circles, rings, diamonds, squares. The idea is that you separate a shape, dip it in glitter, then stick it to the corresponding shape on the black background to make a mosaic picture.

However, I will have an entirely different use. When the children were small, I used to cut Christmas shapes out of "Dr Scholl's Footpads" and glue them to wooden blocks, and using these in combination with red and green stamp pads, we produced our own Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Now I have used these little adhesive foam shapes to make patterns on wooden blocks, and I will use these as stamp patterns for decorating papers and fabrics.

That was probably my last serendipitous discovery for 2007!

Serendipity, by its very definition, is not something you go looking for. It finds you. But it is not merely a case of luck, or chance or coincidence, either. I believe that it happens more to some people than others, because they create the right environment for it to occur.

You need to have both open eyes and an open mind.

It helps if you are creative, resourceful and observant.

You probably need to cultivate the gift of "intuition", by taking more interest in the people and world around you.

If you are going to sit at home waiting for something good to happen - it won't!

You must treat life as an adventure, and go down new paths and towards new horizons.

And when something good and fortuitous happens to you, you must recognize it and welcome it.
It is often a case of wanting what you get, instead of always trying to get what you want!

Serendipity has led to some of Technology's and Science's most wonderful discoveries, when someone observes what really happens instead of just looking for what he or she expects to happen - and then asks why!

But Serendipity can also be a delightful faculty to be enjoyed by the creative artist. It involves learning a new use for an old medium - and using an old technique in a new medium. It means making wonderful new discoveries as a result of your mistakes. It means not being hidebound by instructions or what other people do and expect. It involves looking at everything with fresh eyes, and asking not only why, but also what if?

My resolution for 2008 is to welcome more Serendipity into my life.

And I wish you a Serendipitous year too!!


Anonymous said...

Its called getting sidetracked. I do it all the time. People hate it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing, wise words to apply to my life.


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