As Americans we all have the right to choose our own destiny. We may have that right; but many people, in spite of the rhetoric we hear, don’t have unlimited means or opportunity. Some people may choose a destiny of “a different drummer,” (a DIFFERENT DRUMMER is the name of a play by my friend and mentor Eugene McKinney) perhaps, even when it brings universal scrutiny. An impulse may take one in a direction different from everyone else: this we sometimes applaud and sometimes criticize. In this regard, I once visualized myself in a romantic fashion as a professional canner, not one who cans meats or fruits but someone who picks up cans along the road and sells them. But that lifestyle would not have satisfied me for long. On the contrary, I needed more complexity and conflict in my life, just as my friend Ray Hubener, after a week or so on that beach in Vengurla, needed to get off it. The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go (not to mention having a wife who had a mind of her own). My task remained the same, however: how to invent myself from what I had been given, or reinvent myself, which is a continuous process. This has never been an easy task for me, and I’ve often wondered what would’ve happened if Peg and I (to my career as a playwright) had chosen to live in Greece (where I had contacts in the theater) instead of Austria (where I also had contacts). Typical of me, I waited to make that choice (on our trip overland from India to Europe) until we actually reached the fork in the highway in Turkey, where one way led to Greece and the other way to Bulgaria.
The truth here is that our destiny at the divergence of those two highways could’ve just as easily rested on the flip of a coin. Happenstance, as when destiny is often determined by it, the choices offered and the people met: this is what we have to be open to, and not dismiss, and at the same time be prepared to miss opportunities. The idea that life for us would’ve been better in Athens than Vienna now would be pure conjecture: who knows what life would’ve been like there. Learning more about Greek tragedy than grand opera would’ve been one of the differences. More importantly, and obvious, a different highway would’ve taken us down a different route. There however isn’t anything at this point that would convince me that we would’ve been better off. Reality now easily trumps fantasying. What could’ve been more threatening than arriving in Vienna busted when there was a telegraph strike in the United States?