Coincidence or serendipity?

17 May

I sent away for a book a couple of days ago to start some basic research for the third book in the series. The book I wanted was second hand, and is currently unavailable new. The package containing the book arrived with yesterday’s post. The only problem was, it was the wrong book, almost unrelated to the one I sent for. It was, however, almost directly connected to another line of research I was starting. This is either a startling coincidence or the dealer had somehow anticipated my real requirement. There is a word for a fortunate discovery by chance, ‘serendipity’*.

That also reminds me of a Taoist fable about a Chinese duke who asked an aged advisor to recommend someone who could buy him a wonderful horse. The man suggested was set upon this task by the duke. After a period of some days the duke asked for a progress report and the man replied that he had found a dun-coloured mare. When the horse arrived at the stables it turned out to be a coal-black stallion. The duke protested to the aged advisor that the man he had suggested was some kind of idiot. The advisor asked if the horse was an excellent beast, and the duke replied that it was marvellous. The advisor commented of the man ‘Has he really got that far? Ah, then, he is worth ten thousand of me put together.’

I suppose the moral of the fable is that if you get so far in noticing the quality of something you often fail to notice insignificant details. Perhaps the dealer has become enlightened in that way.

* After a story by Horace Walpole, ‘The Three Little Princesses of Serendip’.

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