Serendipity

Serendipity; noun:
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

This word was coined by English author Horace Walpole on 28 January 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, the letter reads:

“I once read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table.”

That’s serendipity. It’s the silver lining behind the clouds that cover you and make your path appear hopeless. It’s the good fortune that comes in an accident. In our lives, serendipity is always happening. Whenever we fall, whenever we lose and whenever we fail, there’s always something beautiful behind, no matter how bootless the circumstances may be.

Many discoveries that have greatly aided humankind are either results of hard work… or by serendipity. Penicillin (Penicillium notatum), the very first antibiotic, was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 by pure accident. The story goes that he went on a vacation but failed to disinfect his bacteria cultures, only to find them contaminated with Penicillium molds, which released enzymes to destroy the bacteria cultures. This was very disheartening to Mr. Fleming, but instead of throwing away the “wasted” experiments, he proceeded to know why such occured. He discovered Penicillin’s antibiotic properties which helped save many lives. Penicillin is still used today to treat people, and save lives.

Vaccination (Edward Jenner), Velcro (Georges de Mestral), Photography (Louis Daguerre), The microwave oven (World War II, by Percy Spencer), Gravity (Isaac Newton, you know, that apple incident?), Popsicle ice-creams (Frank Epperson), Safety glass (Edouard Benedictus), The Post-it Notes (Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry) were all accidental discoveries. These people could’ve just given up, but they didn’t. They chose to see the brighter side of things, and their seemingly-fatal failures turned into the wonderful ideas and great conveniences we have today.

Everything and anything can be serendipity. As in war, if opportunity presents itself, grab it. As in life, remember to rise after every single fall. Remember this, and only God can stop you.

But for serendipity to happen, we have to be ready. It just takes some courage to accept one’s failure, and some optimism to see the silver lining for serendipitous things to be. Courage and a sense of humor, as they say. Come to think of it, great things come not from the great, but from the least. That puts reason into everything that happens in our lives doesn’t it? Yet we often forget to see beyond and hope and keep dreaming. Worse, we focus too much on the present that we regress instead of develop, instead of growing stronger. So keep your hearts open, keep your minds strong, and do keep your sense of humor, for serendipity’s just ’round the corner.

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