I have always had a quizzical mind. My wife says I am just nosy, and perhaps she is right. But, whatever you call it, that’s what I am. I have always had a love for American history, and things of the past. Antique shops and rummage sales are like manna to me. I love to explore and try in some way to discover an old artifact, or uncover a story chronicled in an old book, or better still, a letter. For me, the excitement is in the quest, not the conquest.
But my curiosity doesn’t stop there. Although I am comfortable with, and recognize the reality of our environment, I frequently find myself asking “what if.” I once worked with a guy that had a habit of challenging others statements with a “yeah, but.” Although annoying, I think he may have been a kindred spirit because his “yeah but” was not that different then my “what if.” We both were focused on an alternative.
I love books about the Civil War and particularly enjoyed “Never Call Retreat” by Newt Gingrich in which history is rewritten. Specifically, asking “what if” Lee had been victorious at Gettysburg? What if Pickett’s charge had been successful? What if Lee had listened to Longstreet’s warnings and not charged at all? What impact would this have had on the future of our nation? How would this have affected our country, or would that now be countries?
When I reduce this tendency down to a more manageable sphere of interest, specifically about me, it allows me to run in all manner of directions. For instance, when I was freshly discharged from the Air Force, I read an article that said the Army was offering opportunities to non college grads to go to flight school and become helicopter pilots carrying the rank of Warrant Officer. I had always wanted to fly, so I gave some serious thought to ‘re-uping.’ This was about the time that North Vietnam had begun to attack Laos. As such, The United States began arming those same helicopters with machine guns and dispatching them to South Vietnam. The year was 1962, the same year that I married, and probably the major reason I did not pursue that dream. But, what if I had? My life would have taken a whole new direction. Life as I know it today would probably be dramatically different, if I was even here at all.
Throughout my life, there have been so many other decisions I have made that have led me down the path I ultimately took. Each and every one of them, small and large, were defining moments, and as such, open to subjective alternatives. This is not unique. We all do it. We have all been there, and I have got to believe that I am not alone in asking myself ‘what if.’ Life is such an interesting thing. Partly because of what has happened, but also because of what could have happened. Who we are now is because of who we were then. Kind of fun to ponder, don’t you think? If that’s being nosy, then so be it. Just sayin.