Planning for Serendipity
There are some words I just really like. Serendipity is one of those words. It is fun to say. Especially the last part of the word, the “dipity,” is fun to pronounce. It seems more poetic than prose, more musical than mere speech. And I like the meaning of the word, serendipity, too. Serendipity means finding something very good or nice---something that you were not really looking for or had any reason to expect to find. Serendipity is always a surprise---a good surprise. Nobody can be against serendipity.
If serendipity is something that we find that we could not have expected, it seems like the story might end at that point. The point would be that we should appreciate serendipity when it happens. And that would be the end of the story. But I am not so sure. I wonder if there is not a more creative approach to serendipity?
I pondered the question and concluded that it is possible to plan for serendipity. I know that might sound like a contradiction. If serendipity is unexpected and totally a gift---the unexpected---how does one plan for it? That’s a good question, but the answer came to me. You can plan for serendipity (in the general sense). I don’t think you can plan for a specific serendipity. Let me explain.
I doubt that we can plan for the serendipity of a million dollars unexpectedly falling into our laps. That is what I mean by specific serendipity. Having a million dollars fall into my lap would be unrealistic. I can earn a million dollars through hard work and, perhaps, some luck. I can play the lottery and, perhaps, win a million dollars. But neither of these examples is serendipitous. Hence, I do not think we can plan for specific serendipity.
I do think, however, we can plan for what I call general serendipity. By this I mean we can do some things that put us in a place for serendipity perhaps to happen. We cannot force serendipity, of course. But I believe serendipity wants to happen. I think God may be in one sense a serendipitous God. And I think in some ways the universe that we inhabit is often serendipitous. We can plan to be available to that God and our universe when they are serendipitous. Again, I will elaborate.
One way to plan for serendipity is to be curious. Being curious is an attitude. It is a way of looking at things---a mindset, if you will. Being curious is a particular way of being in the world. Curiosity is a childlike wonder that we bring to all our situations. Curious people are more engaged, more alert, more interesting. Curious people are not bored, nor do they bore people. There is an element of fun and frivolity in the curious people.
The second way to plan for serendipity builds on our curiosity. Be open. Being open makes us vulnerable to serendipity. If we are closed people, we are less and less likely to have serendipity come our way. Or if serendipity came our way, we would probably miss it! Being open increases possibilities---often hugely increasing them. Serendipity is the offspring of possibility.
The third thing we can do to plan for serendipity is to ask questions. Curious, open people naturally are going to ask questions. Curiosity is the force of questioning. Openness broadens the spectrum of potential questions. Asking a question engages any situation and enhances possibility, which as we just saw, often births serendipity. And this leads to the last thing we do to plan for serendipity. We listen.
It may sound so simple to say, just listen. But is so amazing to me how little people tend to listen. If I ask a legitimate question, then I should listen to the answer---to any answer. Listening makes me quite receptive. And if I truly am open, then I am very receptive. I am not sure how much people actually listen. Our culture is driven by a fast-paced, technological, sound bite approach to information. Often there does not even seem to be anything to which we should listen.
So I can plan for serendipity: I become curious, be open, ask questions and listen. Will serendipity happen? Not necessarily. But if and when it does happen, I am much for likely to “get it.” And as I affirmed, I do believe God is a serendipitous God. And I believe the universe often provides serendipity. It is not guaranteed that I will “get it,” but if I plan for it, I enhance the likelihood that I will “get it.”
Serendipity probably is not going to be a million dollars. It is more likely serendipity comes in the grace of intangible stuff---the grace of the Spirit. Serendipity comes in small ways, in addition to the big, amazing ways. In fact, I suspect that God and the universe much more often peddle serendipity in small ways. It could be the smile from an unexpected face, the gift from an unanticipated person, and so much more. As I try to plan for serendipity, I am surprised at how frequently I “get it.”
And when I “get it,” I can only do two things: accept it and appreciate it. Thank God!