Serendipity interrupted: A life without social accidents
April 12, 2021
In an opinion piece published in Kathimerini on Apr. 8, NOMIS Awardee Manos Tsakiris discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a loss of serendipity in our social lives.
A year ago most countries around the world imposed national or localized lockdowns to protect us from Covid-19. Since then, millions have died and many more livelihoods have been harshly affected. As the vast majority of the world’s population has been in some form of lockdown, a side effect of the pandemic has been an immense loss of life’s capital of chance – the spontaneity and serendipity that can only happen when people meet people in the real world.
The random friend of a friend that we didn’t meet. The flirting glance of passers-by that we didn’t catch. The books we didn’t accidentally browse. The small talk or heated discussions we didn’t have with strangers, friends or foes, potential lovers. While it’s true that we have also avoided misfortunes and calamities, the social world is on balance more welcoming than not. And what Covid-19 has taken from us, beyond the unfathomable loss of human lives and livelihoods, is the serendipity of our social lives.
The term “serendipity” comes from the fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip,” in which the heroes were always making discoveries of things they were not looking for. But nothing can be discovered when we have nowhere to go. For a year or so we have been exiled from Serendip. Where have we been? What is the opposite of Serendip?
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Professor of psychology
The Warburg Institute
Body and Image in Arts and Sciences (BIAS)
NOMIS RESEARCH PROJECT