"I have a theory about new words and ideas. It seems that very often, as soon as I have learned something—a word, an historical figure, a theorem—that it pops up again within weeks, almost like it was lying there just waiting to be noticed. I'll go my whole life without having heard of some Persian philosopher, and the week after I learn about him, he'll be referenced in next week’s New Yorker or quoted on some CD liner notes. The phenomenon badly wants a name, but I am unsure what to call it. It is sort of like reverse déjà vu, with a bit of kismet thrown in. For the time being I call it S.A., for serendipitous awareness."
My friend Mark shared his created terminology several years ago, and it resonated with me as I've often experienced it. Sometimes I think you just recognize the word or belief because you finally understand it or are aware of it, so you just begin to see it more often. This is akin to buying a gray 4-Runner and then noticing gray 4-Runners all the time. But some of the time it feels like God (or the universe or whatever force you believe in) wants you to know something, so the concept or word is being reinforced in your mind so that you won't forget it and will be glad you know it.
Mark used the word "foment" in an e-mail to me, and when I confessed my ignorance of this word he explained the definition, using an example of how the revolutionaries (in a country I cannot recall) met in coffeehouses to foment a revolution--leading to the government banning coffeehouses. A week later I was in J.Crew when a salesman started telling me about a huge paper he had to do on coffee, so I told him about how revolutions (including the American Revolution) were fomented over coffee; and we figured out a great outline for his entire research paper. Prior to learning about "foment," my contribution would have been limited to suggesting large amounts of whip cream.
p.s. I'm grateful for the knock on my door last night to join a group in the park for croquet.