In the year 1754, on this day, Horace Walpole invented the word Serendipity. He was an art historian who discovered a lost painting. In a letter to his friend Horace Mann he explained the fortunate discovery by reference to the fable of the 3 princes of Serendip.
Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka. The three princes in question had many adventures where they made good fortunes by figuring out things by good chance or through wisdom. Some of the stories are a bit like Sherlock Homes stories where they use logic to figure out puzzles.
Serendipity is considered to be one of the most difficult words in the English language to translate. It is a ‘fortunate and unplanned happy coincidence’.
I wish a serendipitous 2018 to anyone patient enough to read my scribbles. Hope you enjoy them.
Now, since the word was written from one Horace to another we have to end with another Horace. This time THE Horace, the Roman poet. A poem on a similar theme. Live in the now, let the future come and may it be serendipitous.
Ode I. 11: by Horace (Burton Raffel, Trans)
Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
in tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
more, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
and forget about hope. Time goes running, even
as we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.