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February 23, 2013

Serendipity, Pt. II

Van Goh, “Starry Night Over the Rhone”. 1888.

A little bit over two years ago, I wrote a post in this space titled “Serendipity“.  It started this way:

“There are certain weeks in which the past and the future collide serendipitously to form a present that shines with both nostalgia for the former and the promise of the latter.  This past week was one of them.” 

I’ve decided to revisit that post this week because this week is decidedly not one of those weeks.  I’ve gotten sick because of a new spell of cold weather which has hit at just the wrong time, I was turned down for the Truman Scholarship, I have four essays due next week, all on the same day, and, just to cap it all off, my computer decided yesterday was the day to pass into another world.  May it rest in peace.

Where does that leave me?  In an immediate sense, it leaves me in a sweater, coat, and scarf, sitting in the frigid basement of Passfield Hall and working feverishly* to finish my essays on a shared computer.  Less immediately, it’s given me a chance to reflect on how extremely, over-the-top lucky I am to be living the life I am.

I am sitting in the basement of a building that I earned the money to be able to afford to live in, using one of multiple computers available to me, and my only immediate responsibilities are to complete four academic essays at one of the finest institutions of education on the planet.  Wait, because there’s more.  The job I earned that money at was a job in my field that I loved.  The school I’m attending is one of two that I can call home, both of which I love.  Plus, you know, my sweater is super warm and comfy.

So, re-reading “Serendipity” for the first time since I wrote it, I find myself feeling many of the same feelings I felt that day.  Sure, they came about under somewhat different circumstances, this time at an ebb rather than a high tide of success, but (if you’ll permit me to continue the metaphor for another phrase) they were pulled forth by the same moon.

Rudyard Kipling, when he wasn’t busy being an imperial apologist, wrote some excellent poetry.  One of my favorites is “If -“, an 1894 piece that was notionally in the form of a letter to his son.  My favorite couplet- certainly the couplet most relevant to this post – is this: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same.”  This week, Disaster helped me see clearly the Triumph that nonetheless persists.

* I’d like all my readers to note how cleverly I punned on the word “feverishly” here.

 

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