Serendipity and How a Bridge is Always in Motion

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Albert Einstein


I remember distinctly having weird dreams after watching two movies during a 11-hour plane ride from Auckland to Hong Kong in December of 2013. The first was Hanna, the action movie about genetically engineered Child soldier; the second was Blue Jasmine, the Woody Allen vehicle thatriffed on the Bernie Madoff moral tale.

Brain chemistry is still a frontier of human understanding. How neurotransmitters send signals, and what fanciful bonds the chemical reactions result in – as of now, we only have provisional answers to these questions.

Anyway, my weird dream wasn’t all that weird. It was the usual melatonin-induced one that appeared to be set adrop (yes, I made that up)  2046 + Inception, but with more futuristic weapons and vehicles. But the protagonist, who was Cate Blanchett, in it was weird, familiar but strange about it.

What struck me was that the protagonist in my dream was a composite of the two characters Cate Blanchett had played inthe two movies I’d watched:  the badassagency operative deft with pistols from Hanna –  only she was wearing the posh clothes and had the tics of the character from Blue Jasmine

The word I am thinking is serendipity. The Latin word, which sounds even better, is fortuna. All those unplanned things -- the bumpy flight, the greasy meal, the melatonin, the two movies, the short nap, the jolt of static – just bounced along together, and played some serendipitous role in my dream.

There is also a more conscious version of serendipity. I encountered this while trying to break 7:00 in my 2km row time on the “erg.” I had about eleven seconds to somehow shave off from my personal best, which I guess is a lot or a little depending on how fit you are. Nonetheless, in trying to learn about how to manage energy, and to break through anaerobic walls at about 500m and 1250m, it seemed that many of the elite rowers out there play “mind games.” Even to the uninitiated, rowing must seem monotonous. It is tortuous too, in the athletic demands on both power and endurance. But what got me thinking was this idea that the most elite rowers, those most accomplished in achieving real results, were also probably very good at fake mind games. And maybe what distinguished the top echelon, wasn’t physical prowess, but the ability to dream.

It is not fashionable to quantify dreams, to appraise some as better than others. I like the idea though that dreaming is setting serendipity into motion. And maybe bridges don’t need to just be dreamt, but they must be dreamt as if they are uncoiling something, something in motion. And a bridge is always in motion.