When I was 14 I had a boyfriend. It was, of course, all terribly exciting and I definitely thought that we were going to be together forever. It won’t surprise you to learn that it didn’t turn out that way.
Don’t panic, this isn’t a post about long-lost loves or teenage angst.
This boyfriend used to do something which he used to call ‘manufacturing serendipity’. Specifically, he used to squirrel away money in various places – like coat pockets, his underwear drawer, his backpack, and so on.
His hope was that he would forget about the money he’d hidden away, and come upon it by chance one day.
It rarely worked out that way. Like most teenagers he wasn’t great with money and most of the time, there was nothing serendipitous about him finding said money – he was actively seeking it – often trashing his bedroom in the process.
But every now and again, he would forget that he’d hidden some money somewhere, and would find it. He would be delighted.
That feeling of finding something unexpected, something that’s really wonderful is delightful. It’s a feeling I think we could all use a little more of.
But wait, isn’t manufacturing serendipity oxymoronic?
manufacture means to produce or make
& serendipity means to find things by chance
But as oxymoronic as it may be, this boyfriend of mine, from so long ago, manufactured his own serendipity pretty successfully (at least some of the time, in any case).
And it’s made me think about how I too, might manufacture some serendipity of my own. I’m not planning on running out to the cash machine and hiding money in various places. But I think that there might be other ways to manufacture serendipity – to increase my chances of encountering something unexpectedly delightful.
I’m going to try to do different things. Read things I wouldn’t normally read. Go to places I don’t normally go.
Most importantly, I am going to pay more attention.
I recently read Austin Kleon’s latest book: Keep Going. Chapter five is titled: The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary. In this chapter he explores the idea of how what we pay attention to shapes our experiences, and indeed our lives. He included this quote:
For anyone trying to discern what to do with their life:
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO.
That’s pretty much all the info you needAmy Krouse Rosenthal
And this one too:
To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.Mary Oliver
With these quotes in mind, I’m going to give manufacturing serendipity a go. I’ll let you know how I get on in my quest, and what I’m paying attention to.
PS In the course of writing this post I discovered that oxymoron is, in fact, an oxymoron.
The dictionary definition of an oxymoron, is when two seemingly contradictory words are used together for effect.
But here’s where it gets interesting: the word itself is made up of two Greek words: oxys (which means sharp) and moros (which means stupid). A literal translation of these two Greek words is “pointedly foolish” – so the word itself is an illustration of the thing it describes.
I’m delighted by this.
I’m not sure if this counts as manufactured serendipity or not, but to some extent I’m guessing I created the conditions which lead me here so maybe it counts? Who knows.