Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
Excerpt from “The Prelude”
by William Wordsworth
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign is Solitude!
Deep in the bosom of the Wilderness;
Votary (in vast Cathedral, where no foot
Is treading and no other face is seen)
Kneeling at prayer; or Watchman on the top
Of Lighthouse beaten by Atlantic Waves.
Excerpt from “The Prelude” by William Wordsworth. Public domain. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1754 that the word “serendipity” was first coined. It’s defined by Merriam-Webster as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” It was recently listed by a U.K. translation company as one of the English language’s 10 most difficult words to translate. Other words to make their list include plenipotentiary, gobbledegook, poppycock, whimsy, spam, and kitsch.
“Serendipity” was first used by parliament member and writer Horace Walpole in a letter that he wrote to an English friend who was spending time in Italy. In the letter to his friend written on this day in 1754, Walpole wrote that he came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called “The Three Princes of Serendip,” explaining, “as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The three princes of Serendip hail from modern-day Sri Lanka. “Serendip” is the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka.
The invention of many wonderful things have been attributed to “serendipity,” including Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Charles Goodyear’s vulcanization of rubber, inkjet printers, Silly Putty, the Slinky, and chocolate chip cookies.
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin after he left for vacation without disinfecting some of his petri dishes filled with bacteria cultures; when he got back to his lab, he found that the penicillium mold had killed the bacteria.
Viagra had been developed to treat hypertension and angina pectoris; it didn’t do such a good job at these things, researchers found during the first phase of clinical trials, but it was good for something else.
The principles of radioactivity, X-rays, and infrared radiation were all found when researchers were looking for something else.
Julius Comroe said, “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.”
Wiktionary lists serendipity’s antonyms as “Murphy’s law” and “perfect storm.”
It’s the birthday of Sue Hubbell (books by this author), born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1935). She said: “No one expected much from little girls growing up in the 1930s in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Mine was a family of high-aspirers, but they gave up on me […] I was left pretty much alone. I look at today’s youngsters with their enrichment programs, after-school lessons and activities, busily building résumés so that they can get into Harvard and realize I was given a wonderful gift — a happy childhood of my own making. I climbed trees and sat in the tops of them for long, long periods of time. I made exquisite little villages under an old pinoak tree by the edge of a lake. I read a lot in a random sort of way. I wondered a lot because the things I was most interested in seldom were on teachers’ agenda. And so I asked a lot of questions. Asking questions wasn’t a good preparation for any respectable career.”
She became a journalist, a bookstore manager, and a librarian at Brown University, where her husband, Paul, taught. But they weren’t satisfied with their lives, and they quit their jobs and bought 99 acres in the Ozarks in southern Missouri and took up beekeeping. After 30 years of marriage, the couple divorced, and she found herself alone, middle-aged, living on a big farm, producing honey. And she started to write down her own story. She said: “I was writing for myself, and what I put on paper over the next couple of years was unlike anything I had written before. I traced the natural history of my hilltop from one springtime to the next, discovering by the second spring that I was in a new place and understanding the value of where I was. That book was A Country Year: Living the Questions (1986). Her other books include A Book of Bees (1998), Waiting for Aphrodite (1999), and From Here to There and Back Again (2004).
Hubbell passed away in Bar Habor, Maine, in October 2018 at the age of 83.