Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Ramble - Serendipity

We use the word serendipity to describe a situation in which one discovers something wonderful by accident - usually when one is in search of something else entirely. In other words, serendipity means stumbling upon wonders when we are least expecting them, perhaps even tripping over them before realizing that we have been gifted with something astonishing.

Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) taken from the Arabic Sarandib, thence from the Sanskrit Simhaladvipa meaning, "Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island. That tells us that the origins of serendipity may go back a very long way indeed, for the only lion native to the island is generally thought to have become extinct before modern man arrived.

The word has been around since 1754 when Horace Walpole used it in a letter to a friend, saying that he derived it from an old Persian fairytale called "The Three Princes of Serendip". The three gentlemen of the tale were "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of." When using the word, we tend to forget that Walpole was making an important point, that a subtle wisdom is often at work in serendipitous situations, an ability to establish relationships between ostensibly irrelevant facts and come to important conclusions from them.

My wee frog sitting blithely on his (or her) lily pad in a pond along the Rosetta road in Lanark was a truly serendipity finding and a potent reminder. So small that it was not visible to the naked eye from a distance, it was not until I returned home and uploaded the day's images into the computer that I was able to see and marvel at something green and wonderful, but no larger than my thumbnail. Wonders are all around us - we have only to look.

7 comments:

liliannattel said...

I love that photo and the post.

Sky said...

oh, i so agree - wonders are everywhere for the taking!

it is always a thrill to find something unexpected when we view our photographs. i got a kick out of a very tiny spider recently which was just under the curving petal of a rose.

Shell said...

I love hearing the history of a word. Gives you a better understanding of it. Your wee frog friend is quite lovely in your picture.

Tabor said...

Great post. I learned so much!

Jan said...

Thank you for this wonderful, post! I love learning about the origins of things and your sharings here are just magical. I will never think of serendipity in quite the same way. And what a tiny blessing to find the frog...Reminds me of what magic I miss when I am going to fast or have my mind other than where I am in this very moment. Such glory does awake is if indeed we have the eyes to see. You have such a way with words. I am in gratitude this morning to read them...

quiet said...

Once more a beautiful post and photograph. You remind me how important and meaningful small things are and how easy it is to lose sight of this.

Katie-Rose said...

I had no idea that serendipity was such an old and interesting word.
Thanks for letting us know.