Much of my story has been shaped by the circumstances of birth. Factors that form my story – health, religion, schooling, language, and environment – are due in large measure to where I was born and to whom I was born. Freedom, prosperity, diet, education, parents, and religious environment are contingencies that I did not choose but came to me. Yes, I made decisions along the way and these have determined the direction of life. And yet, the boundaries of my story have been set by birth. It is as if I was placed in a moving car, and my task has been to keep it out of the ditch and on the road.
On the other side of the globe, a male child is born into completely different possibilities and constraints, and thus, Mehmet lives into a story of another kind. Kinship, scarcity of food, agrarian labor, a polygamous household, and mosque are contingencies he did not choose but came to him. The decisions he makes are framed in a unique way by these factors and thus produce a particular storyline. It is as if he was placed in a raging river, and his task is to navigate the rocks and trees hidden beneath its current.
Given the well-defined contingencies of our births and the contexts in which we grew up, should Mehmet and I expect there to be coherence or shared purpose in our stories? (more…)