The Three Princes of Serendip

I always start with the title; Except for this time, when I didn’t have a title in mind, so I had to use someone else’s title.

Today, 06-June-2012, marks the 9th birthday/bloggiversary of the God of Biscuits Blog. It feels like not so much of a celebration, though, as a milestone. Not a chore or a duty of office either—definitely something worth marking.

It’s because I’ve let the whole thing go a bit frowsy. In a way, that means it’s still going full steam at what it’s always been best at doing: reflecting my life, snapshotting it (odd that I think in terms of the blog as the active party, but there you have it).

The conspiratorial nature of Time is one of the more interesting aspects of it, to me anyway. Time rarely colludes, though, with anyone or anything else, so when Mister Moment-fomenter does a mashup with My Mrs. Mood you bet your sweet ass I’m going to be observing tempus comitatus as intently as the world did transit Veneris Sol.

Latin? Too much? Fuck it, I’m Deus Paxamatia, bitches! Besides, I haven’t gotten to the Sinhala or the Tamil yet.

I had no idea where the word serendipity came from. So of course I had to find out.

Turns out, Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, of Strawberry Hill (English estate, not Central Park), and novel The Castle of Otranto fame coined the word taken from a line from a book whose title headlines this blog entry. From the OAD:

[…]a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

“By accidents and sagacity” Don’t you just love English sometimes?

Except English is only lovely serendipitously, and only it’s only in English by coincidence (a hypernym of serendipity). That book’s made quite a trip getting here: Horace got his English version as a translation of a Venetian edition by Tramezzino, who heard the story from a Signore Armeno, who in turn had translated Book One of the Persian fairy tale Hasht Bisht.


Now, in the Persian tongue, “Serendip”? That’s just the name for the country of Sri Lanka. Though the ancient Arabs had called it “Serendib”.

Sri Lanka’s official languages are Sinhalese and Tamil. Gorgeous alphabets. This blog entry’s sub-title is Sinhala. Here is Tamil:

விருப்பமூட்டும் பொருள்களை தற்செயலாக கண்டுபிடிக்கும் திறன்

Both brought to you by Unicode, TypeKit and their supporting foundries, and by the glyphs ය් and ள் (don’t ask me why those two, they just wrote the checks).

What does the Sinhalese translate to? “Serendipity” The Tamil? Same thing. There’s something quite devastatingly apt in that, I just don’t know what it is yet.

Serendipity and coincidence—and accident, for that matter—are all denizens of Time. They depend on things to happen at specific moments.

Except they’re not, because they don’t. Serendipity is a fiction borne out of meaning that we make for ourselves, that I make for myself when I get busy with Mrs. Mood. As for coincidence? It may feel like it’s two things that happen at the same time, but it’s never that. That’s simultaneity. Coincidence is just a fudge factor that the mind uses when it can’t find causality for the apparent connection between two apparently disparate things. And accident? Rub two of those together long enough and you end up with a coincidence. [Or you go blind. – Eds.]

And if that action remarkably start throwing sparks and a few land on a pile of flammables and you happened to have been chilled and that little campfire warmed you up? Then that, Gentle Readers, that is serendipity.

This being an anniversary/birthday/bloggiversary, reflection is an unavoidable aspect. I started this blog on 06-June-2003. With a Buffy quote. The comments you’ll see there aren’t the originals; well, they don’t begin with the originals. Those are still stuck somewhere in the original commenting system.

But reflection is more than just calendrical woolgathering. Sometimes it’s discovery. And discovery—personal discovery—is often a dangerous activity, especially for the risk-averse.

Thank god (of biscuits) that isn’t me, huh?

The Aught’s were not very kind to me. Wait, that’s pussyfooting. The blogging years were not very kind to me. Taken together, the timespan of this blog and relationship between the activity levels in this blog and the overall…positivity in my life, there’s an ineluctable and nagging truth to be had.

What? You’re waiting for an answer? Fuck that noise, as I always used to say. If you’ve ever read this blog, you know that I’m not that literal, except when I have no other choice. ◊cough◊ vampire pups from hell ◊cough◊

And you know those 3D street chalk-art optical illusions? You know they only work when you look at them from exactly the intended angle in order to get the intended illusory effect: from any other angle it looks like a funny pages transfer onto silly putty.

Imagine serendipity applied in reverse: I’ve made word sketches, painted masterpieces, written biographies, brought you upstairs to show you some etchings, watercolored some dreams and even took a shot or two at sculpting some seriously abstract shit. But there was never the intent for it all to come into sharp relief, in any way coherent enough to be subject to distillatory process, fermentation, transubstantiation or any kind of reductive voodoo yet still be recognizable and referent to the original.

And then just today an Elvis Costello song that I’ve heard a million times before pops into my helmeted head as I buzzed along on the 100cc hill hopper on my way home from work. From King of America, “Sleep of the Just”

The soldier asked my name, and did I come here very often
Well I thought that he was asking me to dance
In my holey coat and hat, and him in his red bonnet
We’d have made a lovely couple but we never had the chance

From one particular perspective, just that one singular-yet-unintended angle, where mental, emotional and psychological yaw, pitch and roll are perfectly just so, a magical view snaps into shape and extra dimensions pop out of four lines of song and fill nine years of a labor of life, lifetime, love; a corpus of writing and thinking and feeling and all of it.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t trade the God of Biscuits blog for the world, I’m saying that it has been inextricable, interwoven into my world and me.

So, Dear Everyone Out There, please write. Publicly or privately, just please do it, because then it’s not only in your head anymore.