Courting Serendipity

by Ngagne Fall

If there is a word I would enjoy to pun on, it is definitely serendipity. It’s a nice and cool word and it sounds smart. But it is so hard to define that I will not commit myself to wordplay with it.

My first encounter with serendipity was a matter of randomness and simple curiosity. On my way home I usually pass 225 East 60th Street, where there is often a bunch of people at the door in a disordered queue. This repeated spectacle drove me to check the name of this place: Serendipity 3, a well reputed restaurant, reviewed by the Times and qualified in New York Magazine as a restaurant where you have to go ‘‘at least once in your life.’’ End of the story there, should I say, if I wasn’t hit, once again, by this beautiful word during an ARNIC workshop.

Tanzilya who led the workshop related to the book The Start-up of You, already mentioned in the previous post here ‘‘the word ‘serendipity’ encouraged a heated discussion.’’ Indeed, the clash on the definition of serendipity and what can or cannot be qualified serendipitous was long, lively, and, ultimately, remained unsolved. Prime example: if Alex, assisted by Bushra, firmly argued that winning a lottery could be considered as serendipity, a large part of the participants —included me— rejected his stance, fully agreeing that ‘‘winning lottery is a blind luck. Serendipity involves being alert to potential opportunity and acting on it.’’

Instead of this endless arguing, I think the delightful mystery of this word is on its occurrence: ‘‘accidental good fortune’’ (defined by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha in the Start-Up of You), “a happy accident, pleasant surprise or a fortunate mistake” (Wikipedia), “the fact of something interesting and pleasant happening by chance” (Oxford Dictionary). All these definitions converge on benefits of courting serendipity.

For newcomers in New York City, paving their ways to life anew, I would paraphrase Sarah Karnasiewicz by saying serendipity is immigrants’ ‘‘strongest ally.’’


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