in vintage letterpress wood type

I have no plan. It’s all serendipity. And the incomplete thought.

Serendipity I absolutely love that word, and all that it means. I truly believe I have lived my life with no real plan. A few goals along the way, yes, but no determined plan for making things happen. I have read all the manuals on goal achieving and getting things done. I have read all the spiritual and professional development books one can read. And they all lay out the idea of having a goal and executing a plan of sorts. And I’m not here to challenge these but rather to acknowledge the serendipitous nature that I feel my not planning has worked for me. Or rather to suggest that maybe that serendipity is really what’s at work with all that planning and goal setting we often undertake. 

“When man plans, God laughs” is an old Yiddish adage that speaks to the futilty and utter lack of control we have when planning our lives. It highlights the unpredictable nature of life itself. We often fool ourselves into thinking we hold the reigns of how things will turn out for us, that we can impress upon events in a manner that make them manifest in the way we choose. 

There’s a story of a young man, that migrated to a foreign country, settled in a big city and found a job. His first job there was a very basic one. Back in a time before computers were used for everything. He delivered packages for a small phototypesetting company. Type-setting is the earlier version of desktop publishing. A process of arranging text for publication, or display. It was a mehanical process, and involved film, photographic paper and chemicals for processing. Not a grand job but a job, and given his immigration status at the time, one he was lucky to have. But as it is with everything, the tide was changing in that industry and technology was beginning to become the tool of choice. The owner of the company was forced to catch up, so he invested in some Apple computers. At the time the Apple computer model was the Apple Macintosh IIci. An amazing feat of computing for the time. It helped spark the desktop publishing revolution. The owner took one of those computers and placed on the desk of the young man and said to him feel free to learn as much as you can about it. And here are some pieces of software to try out. Adobe Photoshop 1.0, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe PageMaker and Quark Xpress, were all now suddenly available to him. Fast-forward a number of years, this same young man was at an interview and on his resume was a tidbit about his past experience with that IIci and those funny named pieces of sotware. He was declined the job he actually applied for and offered a better one, solely because of that little tidbit from his past. 

Some might call it luck or divine intervention. I like to think he experienced a serendipitious moment. One that illuminated for him, the fact that he made no plan for this, nor was this even a goal of his. Something else was at work in that moment, and that plan was clearly laid way in advance. The only power he had over that entire experience was his taking those little actions, taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself back then, without any thought on where it might lead. He had no plan, it was all serendipity.

The young man I speak of here is me you might have guessed. At some point I decided to switch the perspective from which I intended to write this and attempted to become the narrator.  So instead of I, I went with he. Simply because I can? 

This other story follows this same young man, who used the daydreaming hours of many days to simply sit and write whatever came to mind. Always a lover of language and the written word, he carried in his bag a notebook filled with hand scribbled writings that to him were merely his thoughts and observations. He once read the Collected Poems of Langston Hughes and had the bold idea that maybe he can write like this. So he took his inspiration from everyday occurances and people watching and created formless poetry. Words on paper that attempted to tell a story, but certainly not for public consumption. 

In NYC, every year since 1974, a cultural festival called Harlem Week is hosted over the course of 10 days now. It was created to celebrate and encourage the arts, culture, religion, business, entertainment, and sports in Harlem. One of those events so many years ago was labelled “When Hip-Hop Meets Poetry” and now becoming more interested in the written and spoken word, he decided, along with a friend to check out the event. Took the train uptown that day and upon arriving at El Museo Del Bario, proceeded to sit at the back, inconspicious as ever. Simply wanting to be the proverbial a fly on the wall and enjoy the event. But in fine NYC style, the trains were delayed and the actual poets slated to perform were running late. The MC of the event, was a lady by the name of Sonya Sohn, herself a poet at the time, she decided to fill the time by reading a couple of her pieces. Of note here, Sonya went on to become an acclaimed actor, and filmmaker appearing in numerous movies and TV shows, like The Wire, Shaft, Luke Cage, and many others. She then turned to the audience for help and asked if there were any poets or writers in the crowd. His friend eagerly began pointing at him, gesturing to her that he knew someone that was a writer. She walked to the back rows, microphone in hand and asked him to see what he had. The young man opened his bag, pulled out his notebook and Sonya immediately exclaimed, “he has a bag of poetry here!” She urged him to come up and read something. With much hesitation, as he had never read his writings to anyone much less in front of a crowd of people, he went up to the microphone. And as if having an out of body experience, he read a piece he wrote about the plight of the homeless. All the nerves and fear he felt in that moment just faded and he was immersed in reading what he had written. When he raised his head at the end, the crowd was applauding and Sonya asked him to read another. She then invited him to read at another event she was hosting. And that marked the birthing of years of writing and performing his spoken word all over New York City. One serendipitous event that was made possible because of that thing he had been doing, put him on a path he neither imagined, desired nor planned for. 

The over-arching theme however is action. The act of doing that which you can do, or called to do in the moment and allowing whatever happens to happen. 

And now for the very oddly placed plot twist.  An audacious and completely unnecessary one. Solely because I did not write this in one sitting as is usually best for me. And I let it languish in this space with plans to come back to it and complete the train of thought that started it. But now many weeks later, with a somewhat guilt fueled need to complete it, I returned to it not clearly remembering what my original intent was for this piece. And so now it sits incomplete, like many trains of thoughts I have, that for one reason or another gets lost in the brain somewhere, not fully fleshed out. And I say audacious because I have the gall to leave it here for you to read and infer for yourself whatever you think my intent was. 

Serendipity is still one of my favorite words…

serendipity | ˌserənˈdipədē |


the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities.

~ RJ.

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