And so, at age eighteen, I made my own migration to South Bend, Indiana, putting behind me whatever I might have became had I followed Plan A and gone off to Georgia Tech.
And my sibs, who followed -- what might have become of their lives had they remained in the South?
At any one of a thousand moments a slightly different roll of the dice and everything would have been different. Had I not gone to Notre Dame I would not have met my wife, and that particular ensuing stream of children and grandchildren would not have happened. Had I not been standing in a particular corner of the Lafortune Student Center for that freshman mixer…
All of us live with an innate conviction of the inevitability of our lives. We often fiercely defend the racial, cultural, political and religious views we were born into, nurtured in, forgetting how dicey is our very existence.
We can't change our genes. Nor is it easy to unwire those circuits in our brain that were connected synapse-to-synapse by the culture we were brought up in. But we can occasionally stop to clear a space, ask ourselves why it is -- for example -- that I'm a political liberal, a religious agnostic, a long-married man.
We are what we are, but we are not prisoners of what we are. I was raised in the racially-charged South of the 1940s, when a black person moving in next door was reason enough to burn a cross or move deeper into the suburbs. Today I have black next-door neighbors in all three places where I live (yes, including here in the west of Ireland) and until now I have not given it a thought. How did that happen? How did I escape the contagion of time and place? I don't know. Maybe it was in my genes. Maybe because I was standing in that particular corner of the Lafortune Student Center at a freshman mixer and met a girl from Brooklyn…
The chanciness of life, if recognized, is the enemy of true belief.