Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Zemblanity, the Opposite of Serendipity

For awhile now I’ve been fascinated with the idea of serendipity. I was actually going to write a book on the topic but had to shelve it when we started Percolate. (A choice I’m very happy with, as tech industry > book industry.) Anyway, the core idea of the book was going to be that serendipity is something you can both encourage and design for. Because of that I read anything I see that talks about serendipity and was pleasantly surprised by this post on Medium by Stef Lewandowski on the subject. I’ll let you read it yourself, he hits on a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about, but wanted to share a word he introduced me to: “Zemblanity.” As he explains, “Zemblanity, a word coined by William Boyd in his book Armadillo in the 1980s, is the polar opposite of serendipity.” He goes on to quote the book for the full definition:

So what is the opposite of Serendip, a southern land of spice and warmth, lush greenery and hummingbirds, seawashed, sunbasted? Think of another world in the far north, barren, icebound, cold, a world of flint and stone. Call it Zembla. Ergo: zemblanity, the opposite of serendipity, the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design.

I’ve definitely found myself in zemblanity at times and I usually have to read my way out. It’s nice to have a word to use in case it happens again in the future.

January 8, 2014 // This post is about: , ,

Comments

  • Reess Kennedy says:

    Interesting NB. But what do you mean by “read my way out”? You mean that in the past when you’ve felt like things aren’t coming along the way you want — or expect them to — you lean into reading as a way out? I relate to how feeding my mind helps pacify it during difficult times but it doesn’t seem clear this activity yields more serendipity in the world outside my mind — or leads me towards more empirical serendipity.

    Regardless, this entire city is in a winter Zembla state with this cold right now and I like the commitment to more blogging in 2014. Keepin’ the idea exchange alive. Forevermore.

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