Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Serendipity...and Ultrarunning

Ever have a cool unexpected experience while trail running, that occurred because you were precisely at the right place at the right time, and any number of circumstances, if altered only slightly, would have precluded the occurrence?

Courtesy of The Free Dictionary, Let me introduce the word serendipity, which was invented some 262 years ago:

We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the wordserendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which (along withhis novel The Castle of Otranto, considered the first Gothic novel) his literary reputation rests. 

In a letter of January 28, 1754, in which he discusses a certainpainting, Walpole mentions a discovery about the significance of a Venetian coat of arms that he has made while looking at random into an old book—a method by whichhe had apparently made other worthwhile discoveries before: "This discovery I made by a talisman [a procedure achieving results like a charm] ... by which I find everything I want ... wherever I dip for it. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." 

Walpole formed the word on an oldname for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."

You can go to this site and read more yourself.  I can come up with a number of ultrarunning experiences that were truly serendipitous.  For example, despite spending many hours on trails and in the backcountry over the course of my lifetime, I'd never seen a bobcat...until one time about 10 years ago when I was on a business trip to Monterey, CA.   

I was running a trail in a park only a couple of miles from the city center, when I decided on a whim to take a turn at a junction.  Moments later a juvenile bobcat scampered right across the trail in front of me.  It stopped, and I stopped, in awe, and enjoyed the moment.  

The bride tells me that when she was a kid, she was told that bobcats are invisible, that's why people don't see them.  Also she revealed how puzzled she was the when she saw a sign advertising "Bobcats For Rent," dumbfounded at the fact that people could actually rent a bobcat (for what purpose is unknown)....then she realized that the ad was for a piece of equipment.

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