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18 Jan 2011 / Julie

victim: serendipity

Serendipity is the act of stumbling upon something awesome when not looking for it. Good fortune. Happy mistakes. Signs from the universe. Whatever you call it, or however it manifests in your life, i think serendipity has been lost in the shuffle of this modern world.

Exhibit #1: library catalogs and online booksellers

i used to wander around the bookstore (sorry, library) and look for covers that called out at me. it was a calming thing for me to do and i did it often when i needed to clear my head (with the added bonus of being able to find a book on something interesting in the process). i can’t tell you the last time i did that.

whatever the reason i stopped i get all my books through my library or from an online bookseller. Neither amazon’s or my library’s catalog of books allows me to truly browse the way i used to. serendipity ┬áis gone. sure, sometimes i run across a book title i’m interested in somehow when someone mentions it on twitter or those amazon recommends things actually amount to 5 mins of clicking through finding interesting things, but those happy days of wandering through shelves of books and finding happy mistakes hidden between covers of glue and paper are gone.

perhaps it was just me but more often than not it was something about the physical representation of the item that called to me to investigate further. i found some of my favorite things that way. design always key. isn’t that the way of life? something about a scene calls you nearer on the street; something about a glance calls you closer to a new person.

Exhibit #2: the digital tv programming guide

remember the days when you could just use the channel up and down button to scroll quickly through the channels? channel surfing. Have you tried that lately? It takes a full few mili-seconds for the channel to change and load fully- for me anyway- and channel surfing has turned into scrolling through the program guide- which in turn makes me miss potentially interesting things. let’s face it – the names of some of these programs doesn’t always grab you. how much awesome stuff are we missing? i’m probably not talking about sitcoms but rather those documentaries that somehow always sound so boring or so off the mark that are truly fascinating.

Exhibit #3: your attention

what’s that? you can’t hear me over the tappity tap of your fingers on your universe-connected device? yeah. the world being pushed at us at lightning speed isn’t giving us more opportunities for serendipity. taking a breath now and then, putting down what we’re doing and either standing still or doing something completely different allows our brain to think in a different way and see new things… allowing serendipity to enter. I find that serendipity and other awesome things have a hard time getting your attention when you’re running around like a chicken in a rat race.

okay, bad image. but you get me, right?

what i’m doing about it

blackout sundays. one day a week where i literally unplug. we don’t hit the circuit breaker, but there’s a ban on all things that require electricity. no computer. no cell phone. no lights. sure, cooking is okay but we attempt the oven versus the micro (another lesson in patience, let me tell you). we light candles, play games, and have honest to goodness conversations with each other and ourselves. i might paint or write (by candle light), or we might leave the house all together (what a concept)- giving myself that time to just exist in the world gives my brain time to flag me down and make me notice all those things i missed throughout the week when i still find myself on auto-pilot.

i’m still working on the book thing.

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Update: Hey look! This post got picked up by American Libraries Direct, January 19th edition:

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