Tacked to the corkboard that hung on my bedroom wall throughout most of my childhood was a giant poster of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. The caption on the poster read, “The Bash Brothers” and McGwire and Canseco were dressed in fedoras and black Ray-Bans, a la the Blues Brothers. At the time, McGwire and Canseco were the two hottest ballplayers in the Major Leagues. They were both with the Oakland A’s. I wasn’t an A’s fan per se, but I loved baseball in general and I loved that McGwire and Canseco were so much larger than life. That turned out to be true in more ways than one as almost two decades later Canseco himself, of all people, revealed that both of them (along with a bunch of other big-time major leaguers) were filled with more juice than a dump truck full of grapefruits.
Given the disparate events in our world, we make stories of our lives bit by bit. This process we engage in can give us a unified field, a wholeness shaped from chaos. Some bits of our stories are easy to fit into the unified field—making a friend, getting a raise at work, hiking on a cool, sunny day. But I’ve been thinking about chance events, how they fit into a life, and how they can influence us in ways we never expected.
When I sit down to write, I pretend I am speaking at an event. I’m the plenary at the Festival of Faith and Writing, for example. Or I’m giving my acceptance speech for this year’s Newbery Award. Once, I pretended I was giving the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame. I was never a student there, but I did teach step aerobics and my inspiring, motivational, and encouraging personality led the university to request my presence at graduation. In my fantasy, they would be giving me an honorary doctorate. For teaching aerobics.
“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.”—Frederick Buechner