Picking up speed

It is unquestionably a small compliment that an old fogey such as I suddenly feels as though he were picking up speed.  Frankly since retirement precisely a decade ago, the majority of my time has been devoted to lethargy not vigor.  And by design. To my mind it constitutes the ultimate flattery (and muted satisfaction) to have nothing to do, nowhere to go. But guilt has overtaken me. The perception of time running out is equally incremental to the prepossessing hurry to run before I get there! To me that sounds like dividing a distance in half perpetually as though it were a logical formula to compete with finality. Which of course it is not.  Hence I settle for the camouflage of excitement. A convenient deceit.

Once again I am bound to recognize the vein of serendipity underlying today’s evolving gusto. Call it fluke, providence or happy accident. Nothing turns on the theme but it is to me emblematic of providence. Each of the people with whom I have dealt so far today is from South Africa; viz.,  my erstwhile physician (who sent me early this morning an email from Florida with a link to an article in the London Times), our neighbour on the third floor with the magnificent view and with whom we visited for coffee and a chat, and a judge of the Federal Court of Canada who telephoned to discuss the upcoming commemorative service for the late Mr. Justice James Cornelius Knatchull Hugessen OC. That, dear Reader, amounts to three successive and undeniably fortuitous incidents, each with a subordinate though manifest centrality. The predominant favour however is the strengthening of links. I have succeeded to translate those purely social interruptions into a semblance of progress and productivity. Perhaps even with a measure of dexterity.

Probably the literary feature is no more distinguished than Thomas Hardy’s chance encounters. But like the fraud of septuagenarian speed the depiction of good luck enhances one’s overall sensibilities.

The first noted use of “serendipity” was by Horace Walpole on 28 January 1754. In a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a lost painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The name comes from Serendip, an old Persian name for Sri Lanka (Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders. It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sinhalese + dvīpaḥ, island). The word has been exported into many other languages, with the general meaning of “unexpected discovery” or “fortunate chance”.

When I returned from a tricycle ride mid-afternoon I encountered in the garage a woman whose husband I know has serious medical challenges.  During the winter her husband and I had on accasion and by chance coorindated our moderate exercise regime in the garage. In the interest of maintaining our communion I asked her to invite him to drop by for a chat later if he cared to do so. It would be a catching up so to speak now that the advent of spring had removed the subterranean confinement.

Don (that’s his name) and I are cut from the same cloth. We’re both grateful for what we now have and for what we once did; we’re both profligate by nature; and we each love to tell a story. And, my goodness, Don has his stories to tell! In the succeeding two hours following his arrival at the apartment door (which, by the way and perhaps metaphorically, he knocked with a substantial force) his narratives bounced from Montréal (where we were both born) to Regina to Thailand to Toronto to Newfoundland to Florida to Almonte. His accounts were at times of precipitous activity but always with a happy ending. Both Don and his wife are horsey people.  Their erstwhile farm (now in the care of their 5’11” daughter and her family) is on nearby Golden Line. Already I have earmarked May 4th not because it is their 50th wedding anniversary (which I understand it is) but because it is Kentucky Derby Day. For those of you not in the know, Kentucky Derby Day is the ideal day for gambling at the race track. Already His Lordship has encouraged me to contemplate the possibility of vast gains (though I can freely report that gambling is the one vice I have never courted).

In conclusion I have for the day and foreseeable future increased the speed of my activity sufficiently to quell any lingering angst. Meanwhile I have no doubt that whatever else derives from today’s events will be likewise improving.  Just part of my inherent optimism. I have in addition addressed the simmering complaint of irrelevance and indolence. The endeavours were each of the most gratifying nature.