Dictionary definition: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy beneficial way...’making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.
Creative and inventive minds use this, and it may become a lost talent in the future. I mentioned serendipity in an earlier post about libraries, about wandering the racks and randomly discovering unknown subjects, books, and facts to help inspire the imagination. This is difficult, if not impossible, with the Internet.
Young people cannot imagine life without the Internet. I can, because I lived before it was even imagined. That does not mean that I would like to live without it. I have come to rely on it for many things in life (like this bloody blog...which we could all live without!).
I’m a big fan of the Internet, even if I lived quite nicely without it during my trip to the Seychelles. I reverted to books, conversation, and thought. The Internet is a tool, a very useful tool. It does not replace thought or imagination, but can be crutch for those unable to manage either mental task. I do not know how I would live without Google.
Dealing with words, as I do, I rely on dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias. Each of these is available in great variety on the Internet. Speed is the only advantage of Internet versions of the first two; the third is a special case. I find it best to use as many varieties as available.
I have a huge Oxford English dictionary (the size of which would cause my doctor to advise me not to lift in my current state of health), which I consult frequently. I like the feel of the pages and comfort of scholarship behind each entry. I trust it. Its definitions seem more substantial.
Writers constantly need synonyms and cannot live without a thesaurus. I have the first copy of Roget’s, which I acquired at 15. It is a bit dog-eared, but still delivers the goods for which it was designed. Occasionally use the Mac widget version, if I am in a hurry and do not seek perfection, but prefer the real thing. I would be happy to challenge someone with computer to best me and old friend.
The matter of encyclopedias is tricky. I like Wikipedia. One can find information quickly and easily. I have found answers to be credible, although I have read rumors about inaccuracies, misinformation, and deceit. One over the traditional printed form is the ability to make changes as new information becomes available (without killing a forest).
Overall, the Internet is great for searching specific terms. It is great for reinforcing existing knowledge or beliefs. It is great for honing individual likes. Unfortunately, it is worthless for, and even detrimental to, serendipity. One can randomly discovery something new, as one could with a printed encyclopedia. I recall our first volume (probably too expensive for my parent’s budget, but required to expand their children’s horizons) and sitting on the floor of the living room discovering new things. I cannot recall a single fact, but I’m sure they provided a foundation for later learning.
In the above definition is the word sagacity: one cannot make discoveries without a certain level of intelligence...but serendipity contributes to sagacity. The death of serendipity would mean a sad day for human evolution...