A Note on Chance & Retrospection

I’m not much for thinking about counterfactual pasts—“If it wasn’t for that horse, I never would’ve spent that year in college”—because to suggest that long causal chains can be retrospectively determined with any accuracy seems a gross overconfidence in the lying machine that is human long-term memory (let alone in the power of a human consciousness to know—consciously—why it’s making a decision even in the present).

Yet I cannot help but experience as true the idea that if I hadn’t thought of a certain pun, I never would’ve met my wife:

  1. I was going to write my undergrad thesis on literature, but I thought of a pun I wanted to use in my title that only made sense for a film thesis, and really a thesis on horror film.
  2. I had taken many film studies classes, but never really dealt with horror. I learned everything I could about it, watched all the films I’d missed by being terrified of the genre till age 19, and wrote the thesis.
  3. I liked the work so much that, years later, when it seemed time to go to grad school, I went to Pitt to work with a prominent scholar on horror.
  4. At Pitt, I met my wife, Aubrey Hirsch. The cliché “lovely and talented” is never more accurate than when applied to her.

I remembered this story today after forgetting about it nearly a decade ago. It’s a true and almost absurd and you’ll have to take my word that the missing details don’t matter.

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