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Craig Gemmell

Every man … tracks himself through life, in all his hearing and reading and observation and traveling. His observations make a chain. The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest which he has observed, he does not observe. Thoreau, Journals
Josh Arnold ’01, guest on my most recent Diverse Thinkers Podcast, got me thinking some about serendipity.

Serendipity (noun): The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Serendipity: Josh jumps into the cultural deep-end when he comes to Brewster as a lifer in the fall of 1998; he comes to value the textures of the big world beyond Main Street and the lake; he goes off to college and then travels the world only to find his way back to Wolfeboro, a place with which he feels a “cellular connection;” he builds a life for himself through building community with others as founder of G.A.L.A. (Global Awareness Local Action); his influence on others grows all by a series of fortunate turns in his life. Seems pretty serendipitous.

But is it?

Sure, serendipity implies randomness. But is Josh’s path from the freshman bubble to today, a few decades later, all about randomness? I’m thinking no. Sure, chance is involved at one level. But isn’t Josh’s path mostly about being aware of his values and thus capable to create patterns of acting on those values, patterns that have greater and greater consequence through time, ripples spreading outward? Don’t his observations and actions make a chain? Totally.

Brewster’s theme for this year is awareness. As I think about my conversation with Josh—as I reflect on his awareness, I’m left feeling good that we decided to make this year’s theme awareness, for focusing on this might allow us to crank out more and more Josh Arnolds every year. If we can do so, the world’ll sure be a better place.



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