Words we love: a snippet of serendipity please
I read a story last year that stuck in my mind and hasn't left.
It was about a married couple in China who discovered they had been in the same photograph, by the same monument but at different angles, as teenagers 11 years before they met. They married in a different city thousands of miles away, and just found the photo when looking through an old box.
Isn't that weird and wonderful?
Those sorts of cross-parallel ‘what the hell are the chances’ moments make life that bit more interesting.
I love a bit of serendipity - and I don’t mean the naff early '00s rom-com starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack as lovers driven together by a series of fatalistic events – I mean the noun which is defined by ‘the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way’.
I love the word in all its forms; serendipity, serendipitous, serendipitously (an underused adverb if I may say so). I’m not as much of a fan of the word ‘zemblanity’, serendipity’s antagonist, coined in the late twentieth century by the novelist William Boyd and meaning "making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design". Nope, none of those thanks.
Serendipity’s close cousins are fate, chance, and coincidence. Now I’m not a big believer in fate, weird coincidences are part and parcel of life and statistically bound to happen one time or another, no matter how bizarre, but it's sometimes fun to ponder whether there's a greater design at play; some pull of attraction that we don't quite understand.
We’ve all had that moment where a friend calls us just as we think of them, or when you bump into someone you know at a foreign airport or on a European city break, those weird glimpses when you're forced to consider if the wild six degrees of separation theory might be on to something.
I have one friend this happens regularly with – such as that time when, even though neither of us live in London, we passed each other on a tube escalator just after chatting on WhatsApp, our aghast faces peering past each other as we moved in opposite directions.
Perhaps more of us than others are primed to spot these moments, to assign a deeper meaning to what is an inevitable fluke in our otherwise chaotic existence.
But perhaps serendipity is more ubiquitous than we give it credit for. What about when you met your partner if you have one? What were the series of unlikely chances that led to that?
I implore you to consider the strange and beautiful chance moments that have stood out in your life, and those you might have overlooked, and please, drop me a line and share your snippet of serendipity with me.