One Word That Could Change Your Whole Life Forever
How often has this scenario played out in your life: You have been searching for something for something endlessly, and then made a totally unrelated discovery which changed you life for the better?
The word that has been coined to describe this phenomenon coined a fascinating word in the English language – Serendipity. Just that one, almost mysterious word encapsulates both charm and mystery. The dictionary defines it thus: “Good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries.” What makes the word even more intriguing is that it has so consistently defied translated into other languages that it has just been used as it is – Serendipity!
Way back in time, some 300 years ago, circa 1700, Horace Walpole, the youngest son of the then British Prime Minister coined the word in a letter to a certain Horace Mann, where he said he had formed it from “The three Princes of Serendip” because of his recollection of the part of the “silly fairy tale” where the three princes by “accidents and sagacity” discern the nature of a lost camel. Historically, there is another interesting sidelight – the current modern country of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) was known by its ancient Persian name of Serendip.
But now, the story of this ONE word, in its ever-winding and fascinating journey, takes another turn, where it has been given a role of honor in Science and Technology, even though that be somewhat subdued in certain sectors of that community.
In the highly regulated and well-defined world of science, whilst there is a considerable reluctance displayed toward the reporting of “accidental” discoveries by a section of the fraternity, others in that group readily concur that it plays a meaningful role. However minuscule that admission may have been, it makes the implications, and the potential spin-offs not only highly exciting, but also profound.
The real truth is that, no matter how many uninformed souls may object to the recognition or even notion of serendipity, it is beyond doubt that it forms a major component of very important scientific discoveries and inventions.
This seeming quandary presents itself, interestingly, in the acknowledgement of what Quantum Physics is all about, where particles can be observed to behave in a very strange, almost duplicitous fashion by exhibiting both particle-like and wave-like behavior simultaneously. In fact, there is even a mathematical formula to define the principle of uncertainty!
According to scientist M.K.Stoskopf, it is indeed important to acknowledge that serendipitous discoveries are highly significant value in the advancement of science. Moreover, he asserts, it is often the very foundation for huge leaps of intellectual understanding. Of all the sciences, Pharmacology and Chemistry are at the forefront of the range of disciplines where serendipity is more common.
It requires an open mind to really understand the implications of what this can mean. The human brain has many chambers and levels of understanding. Where once it was postulated that the brain simply left or right brain – left brained for analytical processing, and right for creative processing, the modern approach by Dr Geil Browning, in her ground-breaking book: “Emergenetics” suggests, from her research, that the brain has FOUR major “thinking style compartments” i.e: the left side is Structural and Analytical, whilst the right side is Social and Conceptual.
Albert Einstein exhibited a very good example of Conceptual thinking, in that it is claimed he sat on the slopes of a hillock, and DREAMT up the renowned formula E=MC2 - was THAT not a serendipitous moment?
Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who “accidentally” discovered the properties of the hallucinatory drug, LSD, by unintentionally ingesting it, wrote – propitiously:
“It is true that my discovery of LSD was a chance discovery, and although it WAS the outcome of a series of planned experiments, it could be better described as serendipity”
History, has mirrored this observation far too many times for it to have been a mere coincidence, and Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Did Shakespeare, way back in 1599 not know something others seemed not to know, when he penned the words: “All things are ready, if our minds be so.” ?
Unfortunately, some human minds are often strapped down in conventional thinking, sadly rejecting what seems to them, to be irrational – and the hurdle of preformed, restricted concepts become the largest barrier to radical human advancement.
For example, most accounts of the discovery of "pleasure" circuits in the brain begin with the observation by James Olds and Peter Milner in 1953 that electrical brain stimulation can condition some responses in rats. Less well-known, pleasurable brain stimulation was previously observed in schizophrenic patients by Robert Heath.
However, Heath failed to recognize the significance of this observation, at least in part, because of preconceived notions he held about the the causes of schizophrenia. This episode in the history of neuroscience illustrates the importance of sagacity in serendipitous scientific discoveries. It also shows that "mental preparedness" induces stultified thinking, and THIS can be an obstacle to progress.
Avant-garde managers in the modern business world can establish a beachhead to break the bonds of restricted, conventional thinking when they follow the lead established in highly advanced Japanese enterprises, where they demonstrate their profound ability to create knowledge – not by merely PROCESSING information in a routine way, but rather be: “tapping into the tacit, and often highly subjective 'hunches' of certain employees – and then making those insights available for testing by the company concerned.” This perhaps, to some borders on the paranormal - but there is no doubt that it bears fruit. See here: Japanese innovation
There are many real life examples of Serendipity bearing fruit in Science, and here are but a few:
- Benzene was formulated as the result of a dream about a snake CLICK HERE forming a circle, which was relevant in the organic chemistry of that product.
- Alfred Nobel, of Nobel Peace Prize fame, accidentally discovered an explosive component called Gelignite when he mixed gun cotton and nitroglycerine
- Wooden posts that had been painted with Creosote to prevent dogs urinating on them, turned blue when they did so, and this led to the discovery of the very first synthetic dyestuff.
- The renowned Kellogg Brothers discovered Corn Flakes way back in 1894 when they accidentally overcooked a pot of wheat. When they rolled the wheat mass on this occasion, they observed a flaky material, instead of the usual sheet – the rest is history.
- 'Post-It' Notes were the brainchild emanating, purely by chance, from a 3M Seminar promoting a new low-tech adhesive meant for a completely different purpose.
- Choc-Chip cookies were accidentally “morphed” from a candy bar placed into a cookie mix in 1924 where there was a shortage of the normal chocolate.
Amazingly, in numerology, the word Serendipity, combining the numerical value if each letter (1+5+9+5+5+4+9+7+9+2+7 = 63/9) translates into: "Serendipity - reflects the good of mankind. It is the humanitarian power to make things happen and the integrity to stay the course. A mover and shaker, without a selfish bone in its make-up, and which attracts wide respect and support. It seems that even the Universe tends to support what this word represents., as it speaks to people from all walks of life. It pursues goals other than money and power, seeking justice, and wanting to feed the hungry and sick. And yet.....the resources it needs to do the job seem to always magically appear" .............WOW!
The inspiring story of just that ONE word was romantically, and heart-warmingly, epitomized in the Movie: “Serendipity” starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale – if one is to really experience the magic of this ONE, marvellous word, do yourself a favor: See the movie! Details here