Serendipity Reconsidered   4 comments

STMUposterOn Thursday, April 10 I gave a public lecture-slash-reading at St. Mary’s University College where I am an instructor as well as Writer in Residence.

Readers of this blog might remember I wrote about the role of serendipity in my life in a post called Brahms, Gothic Script, Shakespeare, Serendipity and Other Considerations in January, 2012. Obviously, it’s a subject I’ve given some though to over the years and I’m looking forward to the opportunity of expounding on it further.

While the events of the Brahms, etc. post made up a small part of my talk, I focused more broadly on the role of serendipity in my life as an artist, how I ended up writing plays, how I ended up in Calgary and at St. Mary’s University College.

It’s hardly been a straight line, to put it mildly. It’s really been a long, strange journey, as they say, aided and abetted by luck, chance, circumstance and the many wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with along the way.

Without giving the whole thing away, here’s how I thought my talk was going to begin:

Not so long ago I was at a dinner party being hosted by a friend of mine, Marc, a very intelligent and worldly man, a professor at the U of C, originally from Belgium. (A friend of famous chocolatier Bernard Callebaut, in fact the condo where this meal took place once belonged to BC.) Mark’s wife, Susanne, is also intelligent and worldly – and beautiful, I might add. She comes from Sweden. On the evening in question, we were welcoming a visiting mathematician from Germany named Charly, and so over the course of the evening we would shift from French to German to English. (I become much more fluent in all three languages after a few glasses of wine.)

At one point in the evening I mentioned the term “serendipity,” and was surprised that Marc and Susanne weren’t familiar with the term. (Charly knew it well — in fact,  it is even one of his favourite English words.) But Marc and Susanne  had never heard the word before, in any language. Dictionaries were procured – Flemish, French, Dutch, Swedish and German, but none made any reference to this term that I am reasonably sure any native English speaker would be quite familiar with.

As you know, the English language is comprised of words that originate from many different sources, including Greek, Latin, German and French – to name but a few. And then of course there are the pure Anglo-Saxon words which tend to describe everyday things such as blood, winter and even dickhead – all of these words appeared in the deep mists of time and we don’t really know where they come from.

In the case of “serendipity,” however, unlike most of the words we use in English, we do know exactly where it came from and we even know its birthday . . .

As it turned out, I had far too much material for the hour or so I had been allotted, so this famous passage never was read.  But I did talk about various sequences of events in my life that looking back now are down right improbable, and I think everyone who attended came away with just how tenuous a career in the arts can be.

I typed up my thoughts but it became  far too long a document to share on here. Still, if you’re interested in what I had to say, let me know and I can email you a copy of my notes.

As usual, thanks for reading. And Charly, I hope you’re happy now . . .

This song really has nothing to do with anything, I just happen to like it.

 

 

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4 responses to “Serendipity Reconsidered

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  1. Serendipity sounds like a great subject for your lecture/reading, Eugene. Your audience is truly in for a treat. I imagine the incidents will be thought provoking, humorous and many. I wish I could be in attendance.

    Will you be filming it for submission on YouTube?

    Knock ‘em dead Eugene – show them all why you are THE superior instructor/writer-in-residence for St. Mary’s

  2. BUT I KNOW the word and it is one of my favorite English words! Charly, the visiting mathematician.

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