A Happy Coincidence

by Penrod

Few things are better than a happy coincidence. A happy coincidence can be just about anything. It can be big; it can be small. It can be a chance meeting of a friend; it can be a surprise inheritance or relief from a burden or a reprieve of an illness. We usually think of a happy coincidence as a surprise, but it can also be planned.

No incident happens alone or in isolation and everything happening at the same time is coincidental. A coincidence can be good, bad (like a bad accident), or indifferent—that is, of little known significance. A good or beneficial coincidence does not necessarily bring happiness. I may not recognize or appreciate its benefit, I may defend myself against the happy aspect, fearing that I will become overly satisfied, too confident, or allow myself too much pleasure. Lucky is the person—blessed are we when we can recognize and appreciate a happy coincidence.

Recently I found myself appreciating a happy coincidence. I came to the end of the novel I was listening to on my car tape player. Just before my finger hit fast forward, I heard the announcement that the first two chapters of Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton had been recorded on the remainder of the tape. Though I knew of the book, in fact had owned it for years, its content was unknown to me. Here are a few quotations from the beginning of the book that I want to share in case its contents are unknown to you, too. Chesterton wrote:

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas…. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?
How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? …how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?
I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need; the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance.
The thing I do not propose to prove, the thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity, a life such as western man at any rate always seems to have desired.

I am intrigued, are you? I wonder where this happy coincidence will lead.

Penrod says that, in thinking about him, one should think first of Booth Tarkington's Penrod, the boy writer, and then of the mighty pen of Martin Luther with its power like unto the rod of Aaron.

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