Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Converting And Discovering

I love the idea of shoes with convertible heels - going from stilettos to flats with a flick of a switch. There is a magical quality to this - like finding a hidden room behind a book shelf or discovering words of a poem after blacking out newspaper. All of these ideas have a common theme - that of manufacturing serendipity which is described thusly :

You can't automate accidental discoveries, but you can manufacture the conditions in which such events are more likely to occur.

The hidden room is no secret garden that was suddenly discovered, it was put there by design to be mindfully sought out. It is possible that an imaginative child may find inspiration for prose or verse in it. Serendipity as one writer points out is an endangered joy in the modern world :

The modern world is conspiring against serendipity. But we cannot blame technology. I've met this enemy, and it is us. We forget: We invented this stuff. We must lead technology, not allow technology to lead us. The world is a better and more cost-effective place because of technology, but we've lost the imperfections inherent in humanity - the things that make life a messy and majestic catastrophe.

We must allow ourselves to be surprised. We must relearn how to be human, to start again as we did as children - learning through awkward and bungling discovery. Otherwise, when it's all over and we face the Distinguished Thing, we will have led extremely efficient but monstrously dull lives.

I was listening to Nancy Pearl's book recommendations on NPR for young kids. The theme of one titled "Feed" was about the extinction of serendipity in the future - which is a logical next step from being endangered.

Computer chips are implanted in most babies at birth. There's no need to go to school, since you can Google any information you might need; there's no need to talk to anyone, since you can IM instantaneously. There's certainly no need to think, especially since the banner ads that float through your mind tell you exactly what you need to buy, do, and be to join the "in" crowd. But what happens when someone hacks into the computer feed that everyone is receiving? This is a terrific choice for both teen and adult book discussion groups.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the idea of convertible heels. I thought I was a wierdo who always wants to wear flats with socks when I drive but prefer heels otherwise. I was completely bowled over by the article of serendipity..its so true. This morning I thought I should burn my favourite songs on a cd so that I can listen to when I drive but I decided not to as radio is actually surprising me with some nice songs these days.
Thanks for finding such gem of an article.