Jay De Man

serendipity

I am now a little bit past the introductory stage. We’re well into autumn, so Michigan in her fickle moods is a tad less confusing than otherwise would be, settling into a very happy mellow. These past few mornings, we’ve woken to a thin fog balancing out the colors and shadows at the edges of vision, like a fuzzy grey curtain relaxing the borders of campus. The trees are mourning the loss of Persephone with red leaves tearing from each branch in all places. It’s a sort of sunset: autumn, and it very well shows the transition from a massively active and diverse summer to the focused and intentional living now evident everywhere on campus. 

Though foggy in the morning, most days reach a stunning clarity by noon. Everything is on the cusp of change. 

Though foggy in the morning, most days reach a stunning clarity by noon. Everything is on the cusp of change. 

I want to talk about something I’ve been experiencing in flickers. I like to call it the serendipitous education. This education is like lightning. In the spaces between expectation and experience, with a suddenness and force, it illuminates the good. In the places where my vision of the world isn’t doing so well, every now and then things open wide and a striking sight is afforded into the different, the diverse, the important. 

The beauty of learning in a classroom, I think, is that it introduces you to things you could not have easily found yourself. You participate in the great history of people, places, and things which have brought you to the discipline you now engage: these give the shape of the road ahead. What is left is the process of taking it all in and becoming. I am used to this, but I did not expect something: I am finding that this road flings me so much into actual life. I am so exposed to the range of vision I may have if only I give myself to the task at hand. Whose world wouldn’t get larger on this account? 

In Latin class, I am finding English come alive in my understanding. Words that previously seemed weird and frustrating I now know in the context of their beginning. I read more thoroughly, comprehend better and grammar is alive. Serendipity is a fortuitous accident. In the context of education, it is the moment of stumbling into truth. 

An unexpectedly glorious sunset from last Thursday. 

An unexpectedly glorious sunset from last Thursday. 

No matter where you learn, the serendipitous quality will be present in education. All that’s truly required is attentiveness. What I particularly love is that as I experience these moments of unexpected understanding, I am absolutely immersed in people who care very much to share in them. What is learned here, in the context of Calvin, need not stay with you in the privacy of your own mind. It is welcomed, encouraged and asked that you share in the present education you experience.