The universe is always speaking to us… Sending us little messages, causing coincidences and serendipities, reminding us to stop, to look around, to believe in something else, something more.
– Nancy Thayer, novelist
Life is unpredictable. We take the pain to plan its every detail. We chalk out five-year and ten-year plans, break them down into smaller milestones and stick to them meticulously. Yet, something utterly unexpected might come along one day and completely change the course of our lives. A chance encounter with someone at the airport, or a stray passage we read in a book while browsing aimlessly at the library, anything can open our eyes to possibilities we never considered before. Some call it kismet, others say it is sheer luck. If you are the practical kind, you might think it is a coincidence. Truth is, there is indeed a certain mystique in the way unusual events transpire in our lives and nudge us in the right direction. We call this mystical phenomenon serendipity.
The word ‘serendipity’ has a fascinating story behind it. There is a Persian folktale of The Three Princes of Serendip, which is set in the magical land of Serendib. Here is how it goes: A wise and revered king sends his three sons on a long journey to help them leave their safe and sheltered lives behind and explore the real world. During their journey, the princes have the most unusual experiences and find unanticipated opportunities, rewards, and lessons. Having come across this gripping tale, Horatio Walpole, an English art historian, went on to coin the term ‘serendipity’.
What is serendipity? How can we explain it? While there aren’t studies exploring this phenomenon, it is a common feature in countless works of fiction. “Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked,” writes author Elizabeth Berg in her novel The Year of Pleasures. She may have a point. Perhaps, deep in our hearts, we all know the paths we are meant to take to fulfill our purpose in this world. And serendipitous events may just be a reflection of our intentions. We might just not know that we know exactly where we are headed.