Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Ramble - Serendipity in the Blue

We use the word serendipity to describe situations in which we discover something wonderful by accident - often when we are searching for something else entirely. In other words, we stumble upon wonders when we are least expecting them, tripping right over things before realizing that we have found something astonishing.
The root form is Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) hailing from the Arabic Sarandib, then the Tamil Seren deevu or Sanskrit Suvarnadweepa meaning "golden island", possibly related to Simhaladvipa meaning, "Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island". If so, the origins of serendipity go back a very long way indeed, for the only lions on the island were extinct long before modern man arrived, and little evidence of them ever been found.
The adjective form has been around since 1754 when Horace Walpole used it in a letter to a friend, explaining that he had derived it from an old Persian fairytale called "The Three Princes of Serendip". The three royal gentlemen in that tale were on a quest and always finding things they were not looking for and had no need of.  Walpole was making an important point in his letter - that a fey and subtle wisdom is often at work in serendipitous situations, a canny ability to see relationships between ostensibly irrelevant facts and come to important conclusions from them.
Serendipity seemed like the perfect word for this week.  Pottering up a city street a few days ago and not feeling terrific, I looked back at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and suspended high in the tower called "the Queen's Lantern" was the gorgeous inflated scale model of a Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus), there perhaps to publicize the Whales Tohora exhibition currently showing in the place.  Lustrous of eye, the lady floated in her glass ocean against the limitless blue sky, and no doubt about it, she was smiling.  I have a "thing" about whales, and I needed her smile that morning although I knew it not - she lit me up, made me smile too, gladdened my heart.

The Maori tribes of New Zealand believe whales are their ancestors, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa created its mythic touring exhibition to educate us about the magnificent creatures, their mythology and their plight. The "great blue" is truly the greatest creature on earth, and the species is currently listed as endangered. It is heartbreaking to think that these magnificent creatures may not be with us for much longer.  As a species, what on earth and the oceans are we thinking of?


Mystic Meandering said...

I have a "thing" for whales too :) hanging out in stillness at the depths of Being. :) You may be interested in a blog called: The Natural Contemplative - see my blog roll for link. He is a Naturalist who works with whales in the Bay of Fundy. Lovely writings.

Love that "Queens Lantern" too, and the origins of serendipity. Magical :) Hope you are feeling better!

the wild magnolia said...

The movie Whale Rider was magical to share the Maori Tribe with us.

Whales are so huge and I believe share their gentle energy with us.

Kameshwari said...

Friday Rambles are always wonderful. I read this post on Sunday morning after a serendipitous weekend of travel and pilgrimage across the Great Plains of the U.S.

Guy said...

A lovely photo and a lovely post.