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June 8, 2011 / theslowblitz

The problem of serendipity

The problem of serendipity

Day by day, week by week, countless posts flood the internet, your feed, and your mind. There is information everywhere, and yet, how much do you find truly useful? How much makes you think, hey, this is exactly what I needed! No, what you read runs on a tangent; it might be useful, it might not be, it answers a question not even thought of. There is rarely ever the perfect post, book or article that with few words craft an answer that resonates with our hearts, not mere out minds.

This is the problem of serendipity. Life-changing knowledge comes about scarcely; it is the accumulation of experience, situation and emotion that leads to one unavoidable conclusion, and anything which disagrees with this notion is a source of cognitive dissonance, a discomfort to be stamped out. Everything else is tangential, no desire arises from these insignificant information, which vanish when distracted by everyday life. I would wager that 99% of all knowledge fades into obscurity this way.

The three conditions

Yet, we do not forget. Everything comes back when the prompt is right. We are enveloped in our moods, sheltered from that which disagrees, whether we are excited or depressed. If these disagreements are raised, we acknowledge them, but we do not feel their weight; they are disregarded from the beginning, for reasons that have nothing to do with reason itself. The application of reason is external, using predetermined values to reach conclusions that have already been reached.

Mood is dependent upon external stimuli. It is the body’s reaction to conditioned factors. There are many possible moods, but it is the negatives which leads to serendipity. Happiness is too easily forgotten. We as humans seek notice not what we have but we lack; boredom, insecurity and fear, meanwhile, stir in us a desire to free ourselves from their ills. But it does not follow that change will occur. It is too easy to avoid the core of the problem and elevate minor positives, especially when no ready solution shows itself.

Experience enforces new thought. A change in belief begins as a rejection of another belief. We suddenly recall experiences that support this new belief, they having been freed from the tyranny of old belief. We find ourselves wondering how we had forgotten something so important for so long. It is the sensation of enlightenment. But if we cannot find these experiences, if we all we can recall is the rightness of old ways, or the cost of new ways, then our moods recede. Action is postponed for another day.

Situation too plays with our moods. The right situation enhances what we believe or reminds us of how it is only one part of the story. The difference between situation and experience lies in time, and time’s effects on our thought. Situation is what sways us at first, but it is experience which will hammer the nail in. Between them must lie a road, a solution out of a rut. The solution may be a but a single change in attitude or behaviour, but a solution must exist. Without a course of action, all the momentum in the world is worthless.

What does this tell me?

Memory is long. Small, meaningless events can be reinterpreted many years hence and given great meaning. Trivialities linked together form complexities, the understanding of which is then used to give weight to the trivial. Knowledge, in other words, is the accumulation of the trivial. Meaningless events today should be recorded for posterity, when the bigger picture is clear, such that their true meaning may be understood. Knowledge too has to be recorded, fallible as memory is.

Slow, imperceptible growth, followed by revelation is the norm. There is nothing wrong with lack of change, that is mere a perception. The greatest error is in not gathering experience, as it will inevitably be followed by stagnation. Only in pursuing new experiences may we increase our chances of encountering that which may change our mood, expand our minds and drive us to change. Only in pursuing new experiences may we become smarter, wiser, more capable. Only then may we be better at who we want to be.


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