Category Archives: serendipity

Three Dreams, Late Summer 2014

 

S.Calhoun, 2014

Ship Wreck, Tiled Version #1 (S.Calhoun, 2014)

Dream #1

I’m driving a winding road on a nice summer day and I drive out of the countryside and then I’m on a winding road by a big lake and the road starts to wind down toward this coast.

I sense I’m going a little too fast. Seems in control but I start on a big turn just as a village and pier come into sight. I see a big white yacht and and a group of sharply dressed grown-ups. This distracts me and the next thing the car flies off the road, flies off the hillside and heads right toward the yacht.

I don’t experience the actual crash to any dramatic degree.

Seen changes. I’m a very old man in a small house. Our car Sassy is very old and on my lap. There is a sign among the picture on the wall and it says: 2044.

I slowly become oriented to the room I’m in. A dark haired woman in a maid’s uniform is standing off to the side.

A crippled man comes in the front door. I shake his hand and he turns and tosses his cain away.

An old lady come in and tells me she can’t hear anything. I touch her ears, and say to her, “How about now.”

She nods her head.

I turn to the cat (Sassy) on my lap and say, “It always surprises me every single time that I can do that.”

From behind me, the maid says: “It’s your atonement.” (The maid carries a substantive tone: sober, attentive, prepared. She’s pretty in a severe way, and middle-aged.)

When I look toward her, the sign now says 2050. I feel ninety-six years old too. The cat on my lap is very still, maybe coming to her end.

More people come to be healed one by one.

After a healed girl leaves, the maid comes up behind me and puts her hand on what I realize is a wheelchair, and pushes me through the front door onto a wide porch. There’s a line of hurting people waiting near the door. Yet, when she pushes me onto the porch, she says to me over my shoulder,

“Then there’s your other legacy to remember.” She turns the chair to the right and pushes it to the very edge of the porch.

At that, I look down the hillside. I hear music. It’s dusk. At the bottom of the hill I see an enormous colorful carnival with lots of people, and I can hear the sounds of the celebration as it carries from there to my front porch.

Dream #2

I.
I’m watching out a big main window on the second floor of a large club–it may be a yacht club–at an odd scene. Lots of people gathered on the 2nd floor porch and are looking up in the sky. I can see the glint and gleam of the sun on a clear day flashing and reflecting off small stuff floating in the sky.

I step outside into the crowd and look up. I see small metallic umbrellas. A boy next to me tugs on my pants and says: “they are robotic.”

I walk down the porch near of kids and observe the robotic umbrellas coming almost within reach. But then they stop and hover and gleam. Some seem to be copper, others silver or aluminum.

Suddenly, I’m struck that I need to go get my turntable. I fetch it and set it up on a small table on the far edge of the porch. I go back to get a record to play on it. When I return moments later, to my shock, the turntable is gone.

I shout to no one in particular but to the assembly of adults and kids, “Never mind the robots, somebody took my turntable!” I feel very upset and realize no one cares about my turntable.

II.
A bird’s eye view of me on a scooter, propelling myself down a suburban sidewalk. Attached to my waste is a yellow rope and it drags along a small wooden rectangular box. The box is the same dimensions as a shoe box, but twice as deep. It has no lid.The right side of the sidewalk is very rough and cracked and holes appear every now and then. It seems important enough to keep on that side of the sidewalk that I hale joggers in front of me to move left.

I come to a big intersection. I wait for the Walk signal. Other people come to the intersection. I ask several of the people, “Have you seen my turntable?”

Then, realizing I missed the Walk signal, I step out into the intersection. I feel lost for a moment. Then a police car rolls up and the officer jumps out.

“What are you doing in the road?”

“I’m waiting for the signal and looking for my turntable.”

“You’re breaking the law.”

He grabs me and forces me up against his car and pins me there with one hand. With the other he turns on his walkie talkie.

He makes a call.

“I’ve got a problem here and I’m going to make an arrest.”

Pause.

“It seems to me the person is disoriented and it’s probably a Code Between the Eyes.”

He pens the door and shoves me in the police car.

III.

At the station, I argue with the sergeant at the desk that there’s been a mistake. He tells me, “The officer is experienced and he says it’s a textbook case of insanity. He says you were going on and on about your turntable.”

I tell him I think somebody stile my turntable.

“The judge will determine what happened.”

The scene changes to a court room. It’s just me, the officer, a prosecutor, and a judge. The prosecution makes a case based in my missing the walk signal and then stepping into the intersection. The judge tells me its my turn.

I agree to the facts as stated, but then I say,

“This is the exact kind of case in which expert opinion is required. Both accounts agree, but, since I’m not insane, the conclusion differs.”

The judge responds, “I see this and I will gave you and the officer work it out.”

Now the officer and I sit at the classic steel table in an interrogation room.

He states the several facts in order. Each fact he asserts I respond by asking him,

“Have you ever done the same thing?”

He replies every time, “Yes, I have.”

Back in the court room, the judge calls the officer and me to the bench.

He states the following:

“We had two psychiatrists observe your mediation. Both, after some discussion in chambers, agree, that Calhoun is not insane. They both were impressed at Calhoun’s sane method of deconstructing his insanity, and so their expert opinion is that no insane person would be able to do the deconstruction Calhoun managed to do.”

I feel relieved. I turn the officer and tell him, “We’re not very different.”

The judge tells me that I am free to go.

This feels like a victory.

Dream #3

From above the scene unfolds as if shot from a helicopter: a huge mixed group of people is running between two brick walls, maybe about twenty feet wide, and the walls are set in a large field.

The perspective changes to pick me out of the crowd. I’m running with it. The walls are old and ten+ feet tall. The feel of the crowd is that they are motivated, compelled–I feel this about the crowd–and, yet, I do not know what is really going on.

Next the perspective is first person, through my eyes, at ground level, and amidst the crowd. The walls are slowly converging. The crowd slows down. I continue to the front where I come to a wooden door with a window in it. At the door, in the window, I see very clearly my reflection, except I’m a young man with long hair, maybe around twenty years old.

I’m impressed with the trick: I feel my current age but see a young man.

I open the door and start walking. People from the crowd come through the door and squeeze past mer and start running again. This passage between the walls is not the width of a doorway.

I kind jostles me as he passes me, and squirts by and starts running. Then I see he is being chased by a young man in black pajamas. I think he is a fundamentalist of some sort.

The narrow path looks to end up ahead at a wall perpendicular to the two walls. I walk fast and come to see the path ends and one can go left or right. I see the boy at this wall ahead. He jumps into a hole in the wall but cannot get through, and so there is just the site of his blue shorts, bare legs, red sneakers, and the man in in black reaching him.

The man in black stops and starts spanking the boy’s behind. I trot up next to him and ask him,

“What’s the problem?”

“The boy disagreed with me, so I’m punishing him.”

I get the man’s full attention, put my hand up, palms facing toward him. I tell him,

“Instead of punishing him, let’s pray. That is the best thing to do when you disagree.”

I went to my knees, as did the man in black. We started praying.

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Generative Alchemy

Brueghel - The Alchemist

Brueghel: The Alchemist

Calhoun Generative Art
The Alchemy of Symmetry – Excerpt from Brueghel’s The Alchemist
S.Calhoun (2014) 10×10″

This piece is part of a large series that will likely be presented in a short film. The film is intended to show the interplay of manipulations and recursions involved in generating different pieces.

I dedicate this new series to Ms. Uidhi. (I may be one of a handful of artists, or pseudo-artists, focusing on creative luckiness in the context of a post-academic post-scholarly focus on the situation of serendipity in adult development. This could include meandering into philosophical swamps.

IP LAF Forum: Christy Mag Uidhi on Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck, 25 Sept

Tuesday 23 September 2014

INSTITUTE OF PHILOSOPHY

Thurs 25 September 2014, 4.00pm
IP London Aesthetics Forum: Room G34, Senate House, WC1
Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck
Christy Mag Uidhi (Houston)
Supported by the British Society of Aesthetics

It is standardly thought that artworks may gain and lose art-relevant properties over time (and thereby may also admit of similar gains and losses in artistic value). From this it follows that insofar as such gains and losses may be well outside the control of the artist, we ought to expect any minimally adequate theory of art and its value as such to come with (or at least be amenable to) some minimal notion of artistic luck and artistic achievement (such that ascriptions of the one undermine ascriptions of the other). In this talk, I’ll sketch what I take to be uncontroversial minimal accounts of both artistic luck and artistic achievement. From these I show it to follow that if artworks must be products of intentional action, then there can be no such thing as artistic luck (either descriptively or evaluatively). I claim the only formative role luck might play in our understanding of art and its value as such is to provide the means by which we may productively carve out an informative sub-class of artistic achievement: specifically that of artistic serendipity.

Ends.

[My bold.] Intention, serendipity. Intentional serendipity is pseudo-serendipity. It is a kind of search routine. I don’t subscribe to the idea that intentionality is properly monolithic or exclusionary. But, I concede that psychologizing the artist’s creative process may take my own considerations and sensemaking out of and away from a proper philosophy of aesthetics.

Nor do I know what Ms. Mag Uidhi has in mind to flesh out the intriguing precis.

For my own part, there is so much in my creative process that permits creative intention-up-to-the-point of pulling the curtains away, and, thus includes less discrete combinations of intention and, fundamentally, hope about the unknown!

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Inside the Psychologist’s Studio With Albert Bandura

Dr. Bandura wrote one of the few and most important papers on serendipity in adult development; except the paper, Exploration of Fortuitous Determinants of Life Paths (pdf), traffics in fortuity rather than serendipity!

“Perceptions are guided by preconceptions. Observers’ cognitive competencies and perceptual sets dispose them to look for some things but not others. Their expectations not only channel what they look for but partly affect what features they extract from observations and how they interpret what they see and hear.” ~ Albert Bandura, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, 1986

This quote provides more than an echo of William James. Bandura occupies an important spot in the Jamesian ideational lineage.

He’ll turn ninety next year.

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Roots of My Urbanology (II.)

Lakewood Totem
Totem For Lakewood; 2010 S.Calhoun

II. Roots of (My) Urbanology (part two of three parts)

In 1972, my mother suggested that I might find Lewis Mumford interesting. Although I was mostly concerned with–in 1972–squeezing through various doors of perception, I managed to wander through Mumford’s The Conduct of Life, along with Huxley and Laing and Watts. The Conduct of Life was written in 1951. (I suppose hardly anybody reads Mumford anymore.) A few years after returning to Cleveland in 1992, I remember revisiting Mumford in a series of conversations with my mother about Cleveland, cities, the de-industrialization of the Mid West, and, the curse of Ronald Reagan. She insisted I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. (1961!) I did so. I re-read Mumford’s The City in History. I explained to my dear mother what I meant when I described Mumford to be a constructionist mystic.

In the fall of 2005, again due to the result of a remarkable fortuity, I met the Director of the Lakewood Public Library, Kenneth Warren; (to myself I noted: heck, a constructionist mystic!) I learned of the Visionary Alignment, the Lakewood Observer Project, and soon enough–even though I was a wash-a-shore–was in the thick of it. At the outset, among the suggestions I introduced to the Observer crew was a ripe and dangerous speculative question:

What would it be like to live in a city devoted to knowing itself better than any other city ever has known itself?

I didn’t really get at the time that I was both implying a name for the practical learning process of the project being unfolded by a handful of intrepid Lakewoodites and Observers, and, idealizing a highly charged constellation of conflicting fantasies about what is the very stuff of civic knowledge-seeking and civic knowing. The name/process is simple: civic self-knowledge, but the charging of the civic constellation is altogether complex, entangled, and, as we soon enough came to understand, is plain difficult.

Community, know thyself? Really? Plug into the circuit and call forth shadow, and every variety of impossible dream, and quixotic obstacle?

LAkewood prism
Lakewood Prism (demographic analysis schema)

(from a presentation by Kenneth Warren, – Lakewood Future Tools – Understanding Lakewood: Communities and Memes; March 2005) See also the pdf, Community Capacity.

(Lakewood Ohio) Place-Making with Good Neighbors on the Lake
· Flow =Quality of Life
· Increase the flow states in the community.
· Refresh the conventional sense of local living in Lakewood by engaging good neighbors.
· Cultivate the habit of good neighbors listening to one another.
· Activate through the Lake a sense of the liminal among good neighbors, that is, the threshold of physiological or psychological response to the unique energy that permeates the people and place.
· Make Lakewood permeable to new experience, ideas, mechanisms and structures among good neighbors
who are joining society to economy, conscience to knowledge.
· Obtain commitments from good neighbors to act on projects that will stretch beyond circular, selfjustified egocentric gated communities.
· Know there is a beginning point and ending point to each good neighborhood.
· Realize that a commitment to sustainability is shift in consciousness; it is not about constructing a pretty
fence.
· Understand that places and institutions can get high-jacked by interests that lie outside the particular community, i.e. absentee landlords, absentee corporations and absentee public employees.
· Construct IEDs – Improvised Economic Devises
Ken Warren, Lakewood Visionary Alignment

During the summer of 2006 I happened upon my current research focus, serendipity in adult development. Under the auspices of The Lakewood Observer and Lakewood Public Library, I devised a small project. I would quickly teach street anthropologists to conduct a survey, and then from their gathering of this data set, build out with them a very constrained ethnography focused on a single question, What brought you, [the subject,] to live in Lakewood?

For two weekends a dozen or so of us fanned out through Lakewood and conducted this survey. We then spent an afternoon debriefing the results. We never assembled the final work product, but, in reviewing the surveys on my own time, I realized an amazing quality threaded itself through many of the survey results.

I can capture this quality in one of the answers to the signal question.

My husband and I came to live in Lakewood because he had just taken a job at the hospital in Fairview Park and we were in a very temporary sublet in Rocky River. One day, at the grocery store there, I asked the gal at the cash register if she knew of any good resources for tracking down nice rentals in Rocky River. Before she could answer a woman standing behind me in the checkout line tapped me on the shoulder and told me that her sister had a first floor, two bedroom apartment available in her Lakewood house. I jotted her sister’s number down and we moved in the very next month.

Not only were the surveys littered with similar narratives, but having my nose pushed close to such stories compelled me to consider my own.

So: I had to reckon with the robber in 1974 who made it all possible by trying to kill me.

In other words, I discovered my interest in the problem of serendipity in adult development by reflecting on my apparently fortuitous encounter with a robber in 1974. This reflection itself was inspired by asking residents of Lakewood what was it that brought them to Lakewood to live.

Keynote: communities collect the results of serendipity.

(Technically speaking: communities aggregate the product of intricate conjunctions of agentic, environmental, and temporal fortuities.)

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Leave-taking is as necessary as the homecoming (I.)

Coventry Homes

I. Home Coming (part one of three parts)

I dig Cleveland Heights; I’m from Cleveland Heights. My wife digs Cleveland Heights too, and we count ourselves blessed that after the challenging circumstances of my mother’s illness and passing, we moved from the apartment in her home in Shaker Heights we rented from her for almost five years  to our new home in Cleveland Heights.

This new home is almost exactly one mile from my first family home on Ormond Road, and a tad more than a mile from the succeeding family home on East Overlook Road. It is the first home Susan and I have owned together and comes after twenty years of our being renters, most of the time in various neighborhoods of, yup, Cleveland Heights.

Personally, as an independent researcher recently concerned with the role of constructive fortuity, or serendipity, in adult development, it is worth noting three of many fortuitous events that staked me to my home town. The first was a family emergency that brought me back from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1992, and the second was the teamwork of two realtors, and the intuition of one of them, to show us our current beloved house on the great Cleveland Heights street of Coleridge Road. Our house here is five blocks from where I went to elementary school between 1959-1961. The third lucky event is bookended by the aforementioned two: meeting my future wife and partner Susan as the result of a fix-me-up sponsored by a mutual friend. This first meeting unfolded at a September party on Grandview Road in 1993, in, sure, Cleveland Heights.

For Susan and I Cleveland Heights is congenial ‘to-the-max.’ Yet, a final fortuitous event was primarily instrumental in both my leaving Cleveland Heights, and, eighteen years later, returning. On a Thursday afternoon in June 1974, a guy walks into the record store I was assistant manager of, Music Madness. It was located next to the old CH Post Office on lee Road. He found me alone and more than willing, at gun point, to give him the contents of the cash register, and walk with him to the back room office, and give him the rest of the day’s cash. Then, after a frustrating for-us-both few minutes during which I tried to–by myself–tie up my hands, he beckoned me to lay down on the floor and once prostrated, he next shot me in the back at point blank range.

(Good ol’ Cleveland Heights; Lee Road could be a bit like the wild west in the mid seventies.)

I got the hell out of my home town, and took the bus to Vermont by the end of July.

Nevertheless, the way the very long chains of contingency, necessity, and fortuity operate to constitute the foundation of future events, the leave-taking is as necessary as the homecoming–is, in actuality, its required precedent.


Cleveland Heights news and Resources (these links will remain in the sidebar)

Cleveland Heights vCity Data
Cleveland Heights (City Hall)
Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Heights Observer
Future Heights
Sun Press
Cleveland Heights (Plain Dealer)
Cleveland Heights Patch
Coventry Village
Cedar-Lee

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Nothing that might not happen in a universe of fortuity

Dharma Wheel (Calhoun)
[Dharma as Chance, 2012 S.Calhoun, digital construction]

After we had dinner at Cafe Tandoor, I stood up, put on my coat, and turned around to see right behind me all along hanging on the wall all along was a beautiful, intricate Buddhist tapestry depicting the Dharma Wheel. I chuckled–synchronicity.

Earlier Susan and I had lunch with her cousin and her cousin’s husband–oh, yes at another Cleveland Heights cafe, The Stone Oven–and we spent a couple of animated hours describing chapters in our four different lives. Of course, having lunch together joins those four lives for a moment. I would add as joining those lives ‘again,’ but in truth this lunchtime meeting-up constituted my first extended visit with this lovely couple.

People who know me obviously already understand discussing deeply anything is one of my favorite things to do. I’m not always careful to avoid jawing too intensely about my own interests. There was for a spell something of that in our moment together. Luckily, Susan is expert at reigning me in. Still, I took advantage of the situation to first explain a bit about my research focus, and then deploy my interest as a possible launch pad for discussing what happened in our lives; what’s the story; and, ineluctably and implicitly from this, how did we get to this moment?

Fortuitous events may be unforeseeable but fortuity does not mean uncontrollability of its effects. Paradoxically, people can bring personal influence to bear on the fortuitous character of life (Bandura, 1998). They can make chance happen by pursuing an active life that increases the number and type of fortuitous encounters they will experience. Chance favors the inquisitive and venturesome, who go places, do things, and explore new activities. People also make chance work for them by cultivating their interests, enabling beliefs and competencies. These personal resources enable them to make the most of opportunities that arise unexpectedly. Pasteur put it well when he noted, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” At a much earlier era, the philosopher Seneca, portrayed seeming serendipity as “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The harder one works the luckier one gets. Even the distinguished lay philosopher, Groucho Marx, insightfully observed that people can influence how they play the hand fortuity deals them, “You have to be in the right place at the right time, but when it comes, you better have something on the ball.” Personal development and engagement in a wide range of activities gives people a hand in shaping the courses their lives take. Albert Bandura (2011) But What About That Gigantic Elephant in the Room?

Fortune strikes. In ‘explaining myself’ I made a bit of a hash of some of my explanations, going meta in the case of defining the word fortuity, and, just getting my synopsis of the plot of The Three Princes of Serendip mixed up with another tale. I shall now recover both elements.

Wheel of fortunes

various Wheels of Fortuna

First, let’s lean on the Oxford English Dictionary.

fortuity a chance occurrence.

1. a chance or accidental occurrence
2. fortuitousness
3. chance or accident

f. forte by chance, f. fors chance

1712 Addison Spect. No. 293 ?4 The highest Degree of it [Wisdom] which Man can possess, is by no means equal to fortuitous Events.

Fortune

ad. L. fort?na, related to forti-, fors chance, and ferre to bear.

1. a.1.a Chance, hap, or luck, regarded as a cause of events and changes in men’s affairs. Often (after Latin) personified as a goddess, ‘the power supposed to distribute the lots of life according to her own humour’ (J.); her emblem is a wheel, betokening vicissitude.

fortune (n.)
c.1300, “chance, luck as a force in human affairs,” from Old French fortune “lot, good fortune, misfortune” (12c.), from Latin fortuna “chance, fate, good luck,” from fors (genitive fortis) “chance, luck,” possibly from PIE *bhrtu- and related to base *bher- (1) “to carry” (see infer).

The social history of chance in human life is fascinating. One of the meta aspects is: how the fortune teller delivers advance notice of future fate, and, in doing so, brings the future backward to its beginning. This is a modern way of describing the time-honored effect of having one’s fortune told, and clearly the bridge to having the future foretold is a single step long.

In a modern sense, the notional beginning is radically different than it was way-back-when, say, during the eras during which fortune telling is common to most cultures.  (There’s much which could be told about this subject.) The beginning, in the modern (or phenomenological) sense, is at the point the foretelling breaks the heretofore hidden chain of future events. A fortune teller creates a new beginning by bringing to the surface and into the light events in the future. From that moment on one knows their fortune; and, knowing one’s fortune paradoxically changes/cannot change every/anything!

mertonandbarber

Merton and Barber’s work provides a cornerstone in book length form of the surprisingly small academic literature about serendipity. The literature itself is mostly entered in the fields of social psychology (Bandura, Krantz, et al) and sociology of science (Merton, Barber, J. Austin, et al.)

 

Wikipedia’s treatment of The Three Princes of Serendip is fine.

“In ancient times there existed in the country of Serendippo, in the Far East, a great and powerful king by the name of Giaffer. He had three sons who were very dear to him. And being a good father and very concerned about their education, he decided that he had to leave them endowed not only with great power, but also with all kinds of virtues of which princes are particularly in need.”

The father searches out the best possible tutors. “And to them he entrusted the training of his sons, with the understanding that the best they could do for him was to teach them in such a way that they could be immediately recognized as his very own.”

When the tutors are pleased with the excellent progress that the three princes make in the arts and sciences they report it to the king. He however still doubts their training and summoning each (of his sons) in turn, declares that he will retire to the contemplative life leaving them as king. Each politely declines, affirming the father’s superior wisdom and fitness to rule.

The king is pleased, but fearing that his sons’ education may have been too sheltered and privileged, feigns anger at them for refusing the throne and sends them away from the land.

The lost camel

No sooner do the three princes arrive abroad than they trace clues to identify precisely a camel they have never seen. They conclude that the camel is lame, blind in one eye, missing a tooth, carrying a pregnant woman, and bearing honey on one side and butter on the other. When they later encounter the merchant who has lost the camel, they report their observations to him. He accuses them of stealing the camel and takes them to the Emperor Beramo, where he demands punishment.

Beramo asks how they are able to give such an accurate description of the camel if they have never seen it. It is clear from the princes’ replies that they have used small clues to infer cleverly the nature of the camel.

Grass had been eaten from the side of the road where it was less green, so the princes had inferred that the camel was blind on the other side. Because there were lumps of chewed grass on the road the size of a camel’s tooth, they inferred they had fallen through the gap left by a missing tooth. The tracks showed the prints of only three feet, the fourth being dragged, indicating that the animal was lame. That butter was carried on one side of the camel and honey on the other was evident because ants had been attracted to melted butter on one side of the road and flies to spilled honey on the other.

As for the woman, one of the princes said: “I guessed that the camel must have carried a woman, because I had noticed that near the tracks where the animal had knelt down the imprint of a foot was visible. Because some urine was nearby, I wet my fingers and as a reaction to its odour I felt a sort of carnal concupiscence, which convinced me that the imprint was of a woman’s foot.”

“I guessed that the same woman must have been pregnant,” said another prince, “because I had noticed nearby handprints which were indicative that the woman, being pregnant, had helped herself up with her hands while urinating.”

At this moment a traveller enters the scene to say that he has just found a missing camel wandering in the desert. Beramo spares the lives of the Three Princes, lavishes rich rewards on them and appoints them to be his advisors.

This story is where the word serendipity came from.

Serendipity

[f. Serendip, a former name for Sri Lanka + -ity.
A word coined by Horace Walpole, who says (Let. to Mann, 28 Jan. 1754) that he had formed it upon the title of the fairy-tale ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’, the heroes of which ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’.]

The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. Also, the fact or an instance of such a discovery. Formerly rare, this word and its derivatives have had wide currency in the 20th century.

I’m reminded of the equivalent story that stands as the counter-factual, Sura 18, “The Cave,” verses 60-82; the adventure of Moses and Khidr. Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi’s commentary crystalizes the truth (for believers of a certain kind) that serendipity is but a veil.

The story of Khidr and Moses has been related in such a way as to supply the answer to the question of the disbelievers and to give comfort to the Believers as well. The lesson contained in this story is this “You should have full faith in the wisdom of what is happening in the Divine Factory in accordance with the will of Allah. As the reality is hidden from you, you are at a loss to understand the wisdom of what is happening, and sometimes if it appears that things are going against you, you cry out, ‘How and why has this happened’. The fact is that if the curtain be removed from the “unseen”, you would yourselves come to know that what is happening here is for the best. Even if some times it appears that something is going against you, you will see that in the end it also produces some good results for you.

Kizzy and SonnyKizzy and Sonny. Kizzy (from Kismet) was a stray kitten that found her way to our back door. I would guess our back door is the best back door for a stray to come up to! Sonny’s story is not dissimilar. While visiting the veterinarian with our two older cats, we noticed a kitten on the counter in the waiting area. Hard to miss! We learned somebody had left three kittens in a box in the parking lot the day before. With that the aid plucked a bluff colored kitten out of a waste basket full of shredded paper, and told us, “This one is spoken for!” Soon enough he was spoken for, and so Sonny comes home, learns to fly, and, becomes the central character in yet another story of serendipity.

Kismet

(Turkish from Arab., qisma, ‘share, portion’).

The allocation of whatever occurs, hence the acceptance in Islam that God determines all things: see QADAR.

fate. XIX. — Turk. — Arab. (Pers.) ?ismat portion, fate, f. ?asama divide, apportion.
kismet

fate, destiny. The word comes (in the early 19th century, via Turkish) from Arabic ?ismat ‘division, portion, lot’, from ?asama ‘to divide’.
.

Westinghouse Dharma

Explaining my research is dull compared with eliciting person’s recollections of decisive serendipities in their own life. Yesterday I surely made the set-up a bit too complicated, yet we got the meat of the inquiry soon enough. As it always happens, whether or not I am informally or formally documenting these recollections, the recounting brings to the light of day spectacular, decisive chance events.

(This inverts the fortune teller’s strategy!)

Yesterday I learned of a decisive: lark road trip passing a corporate sign reminding the ‘subjects’ of a past employer and so providing the spark to investigate job opportunities–somewhere nearby the sign itself–and then subjects are accelerated through a hiring process–as in: hired on the spot.

This led me to remark, “It’s good to keep an out for the big “W” sign, the W standing for wisdom.”


Several sources for further exploration:

1. Explorations of Fortuitous Determinents of Life Paths
Albert Bandura (1998) A Comment in response to:

2. Taming Chance – Social Science & Everyday Narratives
David L. Krantz (1998)

published in Psychological Inquiry

3. Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective
Albert Bandura (2001)

4. The Structure of Serendipity
M. DeRond (2005)

Books:

Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty
James H. Austin

Luck: The Brilliant Randomness Of Everyday Life
Nicholas Rescher

Serendip at Bryn Mawr (my late mother’s alma mater-go figure)

The structure of what I term constructive fortuity has not been worked out in any robust way, to this date. In noting this, it is also true that the popular literature on serendipity is mostly a literature about luck. It has grown exponentially over the last several years. Such books tend to mystify the subject matter as much as clarify it.

My own musings and reports are always attached to this item here on the blog. Strategic Serendipity.

(It’s not a goal yet, but I would like to help derive a structural model from the qualitative reports–perhaps beginning with a taxonomy of constructive/structural elements, with these given to explicate dynamics such as micro and macro cruxes, orders of contingency, and other stuff–and not ending with formalizing the model because mathematicizing it is way beyond my abilities.)

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Now Returning to Our Irregularly Scheduled Programming

Kizzy

Kizzy. Looking over the wash of posts oriented to the recently past political season, and the interjections of Freeplay Softball reports and a few postings of my art, I see right away the points of emphasis will soon be shifting. I don’t plan much out, still, I’ve been collecting teaching cartoons, and interesting captures from the web tubes, and, other stuff, while I neglect packing up for the big move into the new house–except I’m remaining behind in important respects until the current house is sold!

Sassy

Sassy.

People who know me well might find it amusing to learn my preoccupations aren’t throwing me all about as they usually do. Ironically, the research project into Strategic Serendipity is on hold just as the whole field blows up on the breath of several best-selling, albeit non-technical, treatments of the subject.

Occupy Me.

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We All Copy Together

Steve Jobs the Creative Thief

Kirby Ferguson, integrates a number of current topics in less than 10 very concise ‘TED’ minutes.

Kirby’s assumption that precursors must do concrete duty as precedent ideas is wrong. It is not always the case that some particular prior experience is given as part of the sub-conscious flux of creativity simply because its apparent trace is identifiable in the new creative product.

The seeming replication given in holding up the trace of the prior idea is not positive evidence of the creator having experienced the so-called original, prior, idea. Identical ideas may arise in different times and spaces. Also, recombinations of simple foundational materials, such as melodies based in three basic chords, are more likely to be unoriginal, than be original.

Ferguson’s treatment dovetails with my understanding of the “mixing” of fortuity and constructive relations in prior social networks. Old conversations resurface in productive contexts down the road from the original conversation.

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Science and Serendipity

clip serendipity

Not sure the exact date of this clip from an old issue of Science; (early twenties?)

The concept of serendipity that is the most robust is found in the field, sociology of science. My opinion is that this is the only robust treatment of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

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What If Your Parents Had Never…?

In my continuing research into what I term transformative anthropology, or, into developmental serendipity in the human life cycle, every question or speculation is worth investigation. This includes questions considered ridiculous:

“What if your parents had never met?”

To which I respond: Indeed. (So, I gently pull it into my mental lab.)

I had an opportunity this fall to pose clinical-like questions to one of my softball associates, a pediatrician, Dr. Art. What I was wondering about was whether or not it would be equally correct, given the what if you’re parents never met query, to pose a similar question: “What if your, (or my own, or anybody’s,) parents had instantiated the fertilization at some other timely point, say seconds, minutes, hours, the next day, later, other than at the time at which point you, me, anybody came to be?”

Here’s the encapsulation of my questioning of Dr. Art.

Given the chanciness of what comes together at point of fertilization, is it correct to state that the fertilization that produced me, you, anybody, exactingly reflects the outcome of a single and unique outcome of sperm meeting egg? (In other words, fertilization is not able to be comprehensively duplicated in anyway.)

Okay, so, the nature of fertilization is a spectacular instance of something, a human he or she, in its generative case, created and necessarily from this, completely unique.

Dr. Art’s answer was,

“As far as anybody can know, human fertilization causes a unique person.”

Its instance comes down to a singular event and a rapid unfolding of unique configuration. This is entirely given by the nature of the mechanics involved. A different instantiation would unfold under the slightly different conditions given by these same mechanics.

Several aspects of this (class of) instance figure into how one thinks about it–as a matter of these mechanics. Fertilization’s uniqueness is not repeatable. Nor is this like shuffling a deck of cards or rolling the dice. The unique result is singularly so. There are many many possible outcomes when the deck is shuffled. Yet, over time, and with enough shuffles, the outcomes aren’t singularly unique. Likewise if we pose such an instance as a roll of the dice. I don’t know what a rigorous mathematically-minded appreciation of the consequential uniqueness of fertilization would be, yet I suspect the analogous two dice have to have an odd, not finite, configuration.

The scale of the temporal condition is something like: instantaneous, yet this also reflects the physical conditions through which fertilization happens as a result of one sperm actor, so-to-speak, being successful against all the other actors. It’s a measurable amount of time too, this instant.

A consequence of this set-up is that the instantiation of one’s own self hangs on the slender thread of these conditions. If Marvin Gaye comes on the CD player, and one of the parties to conception gasps, “Hold On!” then the internal process will be configured differently. Yet, consider how even this kind of adjustment occurs at an almost ridiculously huge scale given how the outcome of fertilization is itself contingent on the tiny scale at which the jockeying of sperm happens.

Perhaps, say you, “So what?”

As I mentioned, I take this seriously because I’m researching the element of fortuity as it plays a part in the resolution of human development at any scale of condition or time. I’m tracking back here to what I term the primordial biological dependent contingency. This is where any map of fortuitous contingency tracks back to. However, at the same time, there is also the implicit regress, ‘what if your parents’ parents had never met?’ And, the circumstances for consequential conjoinment, and for relationship, are entangled in vast, requisite ‘narratives’ for which all the necessary human players, and time-and-space, features necessarily are in some exacting way configured by long chains of, well, fertilization!

Backing up from this, we can sift through other consequences (of primordial biological dependent contingency) at much larger scales of relationship and agency. The evolutionary perspective warrants consideration of where this all can be said to commence and how the two, at least, most primal actors came to make something like the first instance, and how the original hims and hers were instantiated in kind.

Also recognized are other perspectives and the explanations or suppositions each invokes. The idea that a unique soul animates the physical instance of fertilization is, obviously, a very ancient idea. This same idea is deeply embedded in many varieties of how persons culturally grappled with the presumably self-evident unique outcome of procreation. Actually, is there a good reason to presume even this was so? I’m willing to wager without knowing–yet–conceptions about the soul finding its physical incarnation predate ideas about every born human constituting an utterly unique instance of human being.

Obviously, fortuitous dependencies track backward from biological scales ‘down and further’ back through material and temporal scales. My main research interest lies in the other direction, long after the presumptive collapse of enjoined human wave functions (!) granted in fertilization have occurred. Still, it would remain true enough that the serendipity decisive in later human development all are in the light of the strange and implicit fragility of fertilization, and, the: “I might never have come to be!”

Except for this crucial feature: successful fertilization and thus the biological evocation of a him or her sets up this new person as a unique in stance of human being, but is not the whole story by any means.

So much for the notion that DNA determines what an organism is like; it doesn’t. There is, in principle, no one-to-one relationship, no “mapping,” from DNA sequences to characters. (Of course, we can map differences of character– like albinism or Parkinson’s disease–to species differences in DNA.) The whole process of development, from ovary- making egg to mother-making ovary, holds itself together. Each bit of information context, like the egg mechanisms, is necessary and specific for each bit of information content, like the DNA. What makes the fly, or you, is the complete process of development. All of it. Can you blame your DNA for your funny squiggly handwriting, your passion for Fats Waller and
Burmese cats, your blue eyes! Well, perhaps the last, but certainly not the others. You can’t blame the DNA for what you’ve made of yourself. You, the process, are responsible for what you are, what you do. And for what you become. (biologist Jack Cohen)

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