As devoted readers of this space—all both of you—know, I’m a firm believer in serendipity, that happy circumstance of finding something valuable on the way to looking for something else. This morning’s installment is brought to you, in part, by serendipitous observance, AKA, the fine art of looking around. For instance…
Serendipity #1: I came across the word welter in one of the blogs I follow. That led me straight to the Little Red Web, where I discovered welter is “a state of wild disorder; turmoil; a chaotic mass or jumble.” Here’s the serendipitous part. A couple of entries down the page, my eye caught the word weltschmerz, a fancy German term denoting “a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state; a mood of sentimental sadness.”
And there it was. Those two dictionary entries together summed up what has been the late theme of my life. Oh, there’s nothing particular that has me in that state, just a general feeling that this old man is in the October of the years. And that he (that would be me) is looking back upon a life mostly well-lived, but lacking in real significance or value.
Serendipity #2: This quote about G.K. Chesterton, from Joseph Pearce:
‘Not facts first,’ Chesterton insisted, ‘truth first.’
Serendipity #3: This suggestion from Rilke to the young poet, Mr. Kappus:
So you mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloudshadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.
Substitute “the Lord” for amorphous “life” in that passage, and the serendipity finds its way back home, and there is an assurance, a confidence, that this life, mostly, but not always, well-lived, isn’t a vain endeavor for something you can’t grasp. It is the life that you’ve been called to experience, to live. And there is more to come, more for which to be thankful, and more about which to be curious.
Look for the life around you, and you never know what you might find.