This afternoon Elizabeth let me know that Edward Gibbon the historian stood only 4 ft. 8 in. But for a string of circumstances, I would have never known this.
I suppose it began when I decided to apply for Northwestern rather than Harvard, as my English teacher pushed. Had I not done so, and had not Elizabeth been bounced from U. of Michigan and forged her way into Northwestern, we might never have met. And had we not been seated across the aisle in a stage lighting class and found ourselves the only ones in the class laughing at the prof’s jokes, I would never have ventured to talk with her—I’m a very shy person. With that, life began to shape itself, though via change upon change upon change.
I’m within a couple of months of finishing writing a novel based on the David stories of the Hebrew texts, so I’m acutely sensitive to what shapes a life. How do you get from being a shepherd to being a king, and what happens then? Or being 15 and then being 80? I think we tend to see our lives as inevitable, perhaps because we can’t imagine it any other way, perhaps because we’ve absorbed too much fiction where the author has been careful to make things seem perfectly plotted and inevitable.
I just read of rat experiments that concluded that if the baby rat doesn’t get enough touch from its mom, it fails to thrive. The rat mom licks her babies a lot, and maybe more of us need that. Imagine what may be at stake.
Not that it makes a lot of difference to know that Edward Gibbon was short . I’m just fascinated at the utter crapshoot that shapes our lives. We’re born, we hop a wild camel, and we slide off where it stops. Somewhere along the way, we write a college admissions essay on where we think the camel will go.