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Serendipity vs. Sanpetipity

By Merrill Ogden - | Dec 28, 2022

Serendipity is a word that I like. I think most people like it, once they learn how to say it and learn what it means. It really is fun to say. Try it. Read this out loud: Serendipity, serendipity, serendipity! I also like to say serendipitous, which would be the adjective form of the word.

According to my trusty Random House College Edition Dictionary, which I used in college when dinosaurs roamed the earth, serendipity is defined as: “noun – an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.” A synonym would be “fortuitous.” An example of something serendipitous would be: being in Las Vegas and running into an old friend from Canada who you hadn’t seen in 30 years and the friend has extra front row tickets to a Paul McCartney concert. That would be heavy-duty serendipity. (That hasn’t happened to me yet; but we did randomly win a trip to Hawaii years ago.)

In 2001, the movie “Serendipity” was released. We saw it at the movie theater back then. People asked if I liked the movie and my reply was something like, “Kate Beckinsale’s smile and British accent are worth the price of admission.” Women who saw the movie may have had something complimentary to say about John Cusack. We own the DVD of the movie and I’ve seen it quite a few times over the years.

The premise of the show is this: The characters, Jon and Sara, have a “serendipitous discovery” of each other as they both grab for the last pair of gloves while shopping at Bloomingdales. Though both are entangled in relationships, they take a liking to each other.

Sara is a great believer in fate and refuses to make it easy for Jon to find her again. She has Jon write his number on a five-dollar bill, which she puts into circulation with a stranger. She writes her name and number in a novel, which she sells to a used bookstore. If the universe sends one of these objects back to Jon, then meeting again is meant to be.

The film is full of near misses, coincidences and happenstances. I bet you can’t guess whether there is a happy ending or not.

I think every once in a while we all think about the concept of serendipity or good fortune or luck. Is it at work in our lives? Does it apply to us individually? I believe that to one degree or another, it applies to all of us.

Some of us don’t realize how lucky we are at times. I would say that if we’d just stop to think about it, we would notice that we are the beneficiaries of happy circumstances and fateful, fluky coincidences more often than we’d like to admit.

Trying to solve the mystery of these things is not easy. Some would factor in “guardian angels” and “good Samaritans.” I’m not opposed to putting those into the mix either.

I have wondered what the flip side of serendipity would be. I believe that life in Sanpete gives rise to the word: “Sanpetipity.” I don’t want to perpetuate or give strength to this concept, but by coining this word, I guess I already did.

Here’s the concept: the people of Sanpete have had a bit of a tradition of having a self-deprecating attitude. It’s exemplified by the old joke; “Marry a girl from Sanpete because no matter how tough life gets, she’ll always have had it worse.” Sometimes in Sanpete we thrive on the image of “if we ain’t got bad luck, we ain’t got no luck at all.”

“Sanpetipity would be defined partially as thinking that you made a desirable discovery by accident, when, in fact, it turns out to just be an undesirable accident.” (Don’t spend a lot of time re-reading that.)

A simple example of this would be the Sanpeter who believes that his prize, papered, Golden Retriever is expecting a litter of prize Golden Retriever puppies that will be able to be registered and worth a lot of money. The delivery date arrives and the first pup out of the chute has a black face and looks like the Black Lab from across the street. Dang it! Sanpetipity!

I believe that little by little Sanpeters are growing out of this attitude as far as real perceptions go. We do like to keep the image up though. It does have a certain entertainment value. And, I kind of think that we believe the attitude of Sanpetipity will keep some people from wanting to move here – thereby keeping our lifestyle safe.

My advice is that we should live life to the fullest and find as much serendipity as we can from day to day. We, ourselves, can be the “guardian angels” and “good Samaritans” in the lives of family, friends, and complete strangers. We have the ability to give “serendipitous boosts” that will make life better for everyone, including ourselves. Let’s do it! Happy New Year!!

— Merrill


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