Monday, May 22, 2006

Somewhere Up High

I'm not a religious person, or even philosophical. I think i'm inclined to be existentialist, but not so much as to actually read Sartre. But oddly i've always had this feeling that a thin line of destiny guided my life, that some small, apparently insignificant decisions made a huge difference in my life. For instance after high school i decided to go to college in Arizona, even though it made very little sense to do so. There were dozens of schools within a day's drive of my home that were better schools with lower tuition. The most significant to me of these small events is something that happened when i checked in at my dormitory in Arizona. Typically incoming freshman were put on the lower floors. I didn't know this, and so when the young man checking us in asked where i wanted to be, i answered "Somewhere up high".

Strangley enough, he put me on the third floor. In retrospect, it might have been because he knew it would be difficult to find a willing roommate for the room's other occupant, an odd young man named Fred who wanted to be in room 357 because it matched the caliber of his prize possession, a .357 magnum. Almost everyone called him "357 Fred". But i didn't know that, and during the semester i met the guys with whom i would share an apartment the following semester, one of whom is still probably my best friend. Through another of my roommates, i met the woman who would become my wife.

For almost 25 years i've believed that was my small bit of destiny, and that stupid little phrase has resonated for me, meaning so much more than i intended: "Somewhere up high". That simple, tossed-off comment seemed to make all the difference in my life, and so i could not discount it as simple chance.

Even though, intellectually, i know it was. It's impossible to know what would have happened to me had i gone elsewhere during that pivotal time in my life. Perhaps i'd have made other friends and fallen in love with another woman, simply because i'm inclined to do so. Maybe that aspect of my life would have not crystallized, and i'd have spent my energy on pursuing dreams that i'm sure i still had when i was young.

Further proving that i get inspiration from the stupidest of places, i recall a comment i once read by the musician Wynton Marsalis. He was responding to critics that his life had been too comfortable and middle-class for him to understand the blues. He said "pain is the realization of limitations". Pain is surely much more than that too, but the crisis of my mid-life crisis is coming to grips that i wasn't so much destined to be what i am as i let my limitations bring me here.

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