Month: August 2013

On Serendipity

On Serendipity

 

Dear Dylan,

 

As you course through your amazing life, I expect you will quickly discover a phenomenon that underscores the universe. There are many names for it:

Randomness,

Luck,

Chance,

Serendipity

We all come to sense it at one time or another. Some of us become superstitious, others believe they can eliminate chance and randomness through the exertion of their will, as if that were even remotely possible. (see my earlier post on Risk management) Others, even if only occasionally, embrace it.

I have found that there is something liberating and cathartic about occasionally opening oneself up to the ebb and flow, and following wherever it takes you. In his fiction, William Gibson talks often of the strange magnetic pull of the nodal points of history that can only be felt by those who consciously sensitize themselves to those forces.

As you know by now, my younger days were governed by what I would call a controlled recklessness. In the mid nineties I went by myself to live in a small, unheard of town in Germany. I went there with no idea how to speak German, no international driving license, and only knowing a few people there. I had to slowly discover what the signs on the streaking Autobahn and in the crowded city centers meant.

“Oh, I can’t drive here because this is a pedestrian zone. That explains a lot. I just thought everyone here hated me. Thank you officer.”

That first week I would sit in the evening in my tiny studio apartment at 42 Schwarzwaldstrasse with no phone or television, and look out of the large window at the crowds sweeping by, feeling alien and alone and exhilarated at the same time, waiting for someone to discover me as an impostor and tell me I didn’t belong there in Germany.

On Friday evenings I would pack a small book bag with one change of clothes and go stand in front of the destination board at the train station. It was mechanical; the boards clacking as they changed, filling the old stone building with rhythmic staccato music. I would choose one at random, buy a ticket and board. Berlin, Vienna, Paris…eventually Milan and Venice, where I found your Mother. I always went alone, with no plans. Once I arrived I would typically buy a Lonely Planet guide Book and walk around sticking my head into tiny hotels until I found one that could accommodate me.

A disproportionate number of the stories I will tell you when you are older will come from this period in my life. I was bullet proof and hungry for the limits of things, looking for adventure. So many things happened that I am sure had a profound effect on who I am now. Robbed at gunpoint in Moscow, chased through the streets of  Sao Paulo, wandering alone across Egypt feeling the dark hot eyes on my neck, interrogated at the border for half a day in Eilat, Israel.

I am a Father now. A husband too. I am now much more like those who seek to diminish randomness; crave certainty, security. It comes from watching your gentle breathing as you sleep and thinking too much about all that could go wrong. I think about how much you, your sister and your Mother count on me to keep the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at bay.

Part of me, though, still clings to that younger spirit, still feels the magnetic pull towards the nodal points; wondering what Serendipity has stored and waiting for me and now for you and your sister too, if we will only open ourselves up again.

I am telling you this because I want you to know a secret. Serendipity, like meditation, doesn’t work if you are passive. It requires effort. Focus. You have to hold in your mind the image of what you are seeking. A woman. Meaningful work. Fortune. Fame. Then you can let the Universe decide if you are worthy of what you imagine, and let it reveal the nodal points that lead to your dreams and aspirations.

Live long and prosper,

 

Love,

Dad

 

 

“What we call luck is the inner man externalized. We make things happen to us.”

ROBERTSON DAVIES, What’s Bred in the Bone

 

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