Lying awake at 1:40 this morning and reviewing the arc of my life, I had a really odd thought, one that revealed to me the absurd randomness of our existence. It occurred to me that I do not regret a single thing I did, a single movement of my limbs, a single breath I took at any time in my life up to May, 1969. Why? Because in that month, on some evening, I know not which, my second son was conceived. One among the millions of sperm struggling toward that egg made it and the resulting fertilization became, in the fullness of time, Tobias Barrington Wolff, just as a similar conjunction two years earlier had become Patrick Gideon Wolff. Any revision of my previous existence might have resulted in a different sperm winning the race, and that would have meant that Tobias and perhaps Patrick would not now exist.
I would not give up one of those random happenstances for anything I can imagine – not world peace, not immortal fame, indeed not genuine immortality itself. Oh, no doubt if something, anything, had been different in my life until then, I would have sired two other children, and had I done so, I am sure I would have loved them as completely as I love Patrick and Tobias. But that sentence is in the subjunctive, and Patrick and Tobias are in the declarative.
I spend much of my time seeing the deeper necessary causes and conditions of the world and its evils. It is sobering to reflect that what matters to me most of all is accidental, inexplicable, and yet utterly essential to my life.