|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||4.81(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.96(d)|
The Land of Serendip
As I write, I'm sitting on the veranda of my room in Sri Lanka, looking out through the jungle toward the beach, watching a man lead his elephant into the sea for a bath. Perhaps it is a rather extreme approach, but I've come here, halfway around the world, to a teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean, to explore the origins and the deeper meanings of my favorite word, serendipity, and to write a book I hope will share the power of these meanings with others.
Serendipity, a word coined by an eighteenth-century British writer named Horace Walpole, suggests an attitude of mind and heart that can give people the means to move from where they are to where they want to be, and perhaps even from where they are to where God wants them to be.
I came to Sri Lanka, which was once called Serendip, because I thought the book ought to carry part of the mystery of this ancient land and of the legend that spawned the word. I will begin, after this brief foreword, by telling you how and why Walpole created the word and about an old Persian fable called "The Three Princes of Serendip" that inspired him. I found the fable, one of the few copies of it left in the world, in the British Museum in London, and retranslated it into modern English. But before we get into that, let me make a comment, based in part on the perspective I feel as I look at our world from this faraway place.
Americans, as the world starts not only a new century but a new millennium, live in a unique society and culture that is more challenging, more complex, and more competitive than any other. Compared to people of otherplaces and other times, our lives are bountiful as well as busy, but they are almost always demanding and almost never predictable. No matter what course we choose, life is filled with surprises and unexpected turns in the road.
The stress and frustration that most of us feel traces back both to the demands and to the unpredictability. Over and over, it seems, just as we begin to get an idea of where we're going or what we're doing, something comes along -- a crisis, a challenge, a circumstance -- and suddenly we're in uncharted waters (and over our heads).
The problems we face are too diverse to have a single answer -- unless that answer is an attitude: an attitude that can give guidance to life, an attitude that can turn adversity into advantage, impatience into insight, competition into charity, boredom into beauty -- an attitude or a paradigm called spiritual serendipity.
In a way this trip to Serendip symbolizes the core idea of this book. I came here because I felt guided to or prompted to. It wasn't a particularly logical decision, or a financially justifiable one. And it's not a very planned trip because I don't know the options or what to expect. It is so much easier (and perceived as more desirable) to do things for more practical reasons -- and to be in control, in charge, to plan and manage and even manipulate. We like to say, "act, don't react" or "have plans and contingency plans" or "leave nothing to chance" or "never be surprised."
But the fact is that we know so little and control so little. Surprises happen every day. And there are so many big things and so many small things over which we have no control.
The fact is that, on our own, we don't know enough about the future, or about those around us, or even about ourselves to choose very consistently what is best for ourselves and best for others.
But there is a higher intelligence which can prompt and guide our minds and spirits with small, sometimes hard-to-notice feelings and insights that we call nudges or impressions or intuitions or inspirations. Spiritual Serendipity is an attitude that increases our receptivity to this purer intelligence. With it, we can discard the futile goal of a totally self-managed life and adopt the goal of a guided life. May I find more of it (and share more of it with you) while I am here.
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon and before that Serendip)
Off the south coast of India
Copyright © 1997 by Richard Eyre and Linda Eyre