7 Jun 2014

Guest Post - Our Serendipitous World - by Robert J. Kuntz

[Dear friends, please welcome our first ever guest writer, Mr Robert J. Kuntz, who has kindly accepted my invitation to write an article for La Baguette Magique. It is a great privilege for me to collaborate with Robert, a published American author from the Midwest, currently finishing a book on play, creativity and intuitive processes, and how these all relate to open form, a concept which he is promoting as a pre-theory after 7 years researching the matter. Meanwhile Rob is sharing his views on serendipity...] 

When the wonderful hostess of this equally wonderful blog invited me to guest-write an article I couldn’t help but realize that this synergy had manifested by happenstance. I had happened upon her blog while “Googling” design. The “lifestyle with attitude” became an instant attractor for me, as I am destined to generate, and to encourage in others, a fresh (as in “refreshing”) attitude. A few choice comments between us and we have a different context. And that is what serendipity is partially about: the unforeseen emergence of positive circumstances.

So it was natural to focus upon serendipity as the topic for this article: a short example of how it once played out in my life; how it equates to staying open and inquisitive; and ultimately how it is always present, even when we are not.

The word, serendipity, came into being serendipitously! The writer, Horace Walpole, suggested it after reading a Persian fairy tale entitled The Three Princes of Serendip. He notes that the titular heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” [emphasis mine]

Horace Walpole

Historically the concept has been related to luck, spontaneity, surprise occurrences and anything that deals with the unexpected emergence of something satisfying, as has been the case with some notable discoveries in science and invention. Just before sitting down to peruse this subject I was thinking about inventions while heating a cup o’ tea in the microwave, that marvelous device that we pretty much now take for granted. Some time later, while reading a few articles, I discovered that the microwave was one of those inventions that had occurred by a fortuitous accident, i.e., itself brought about by a serendipitous moment in time.

This puts to rest the “accidents” as derived from Walpole’s impressions of the aforementioned fairy tale. Let’s now consider the “sagacity” angle.

Sagacity is the quality of being sagacious: wise and discerning in thought.

So… It appears that Walpole was suggesting that serendipity is our ability to discern immediate circumstances to enable whatever uniqueness that exists within these to manifest. He infers, though obliquely, that one has to be present and aware to identify situations that could effect change.

This is why the concept of serendipity transcends accidental discovery. It has been linked to lateral thinking, marketing, and to other channels of thought that leverage intuition and complex cognitive processes. In modern day parlance it could be summarized as being there and being aware.

Circumstances. We all have them. And we always consider ourselves there when dealing with or thinking about them; and thus we can claim to be aware in those instances…

I’m going to take a mental step sideways with the following example. With it I hope to expose not only what serendipity is but also what it can be.

My circumstance was being “in line” at a local store’s cashier stand queued behind several people who were making purchases. There I became aware of two things. None of the people were talking with each other. They were all intent upon the shopping experience: either unloading their carts or otherwise idle and waiting for their turn in the pecking order. This scene was reinforced by the cashier’s mode: greet the customer and perform my duty. I quickly scanned the store. It wasn’t swamped with activity. In fact many of the cashier lanes were closed. It was in that moment that I also became aware of the store’s noise. There were approximately 20-30 people within my viewing range. Live humans, mind you. But all I could hear was the store’s mechanical system working at peak efficiency.

George Carlin’s (R.I.P.) insight about time drifted into my thoughts for inspection as I shuffled forward in “the line”: “There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.” I would add to this that the mobile present should be considered analogous with the immediate future. So… As it became my turn to “check out” I responded to the cashier’s auto-mode inquiry of “Hi, how are you?” by first noting her name-tag (“Stephanie”) and then saying, “Thanks, Stephanie. I’m great! How’s life treating you today?”

George Carlin

There’s an old axiom that unravels something like this: If you desire change you must first remove yourself from your present circumstances. Stephanie’s demeanor changed due to my open gesture. Her eyes brightened. She smiled. And we had a fine conversation as she performed her duties. A joke I told even had another customer-in-waiting laughing along with us. Natural humaneness is infectious, but we sometimes succumb to the “grind” and lose touch with it due to the latter’s constrictive patterning.

What has this to do with serendipity? Quite a lot if one peers closely enough. There is discovery, change, awareness and sagacity in the above example. The accidental part has been turned on its head, just as it has been through current views about leveraging the power of emergent thinking for commercial reasons. But discoveries don’t only come from science and invention, especially when one adds self-discovery or self-affirmation to such a mix.

Serendipity will always be related to interactions between people, to their ideas, and ultimately to their hopes and wishes. Thus serendipity is about the world and the positive circumstances within it that shape our lives.

Marcus Aurelius

Or, as a great thinker of the past, Marcus Aurelius, duly noted: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

©2014. Robert J. Kuntz.

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