It appears in retrospect that I chose to be the person I became. At my core I still feel like I’m inhabiting the same body as when I was in fourth grade in Burlingame, California, in 1944. By that time I was conscious that I was a human being and I liked science and art. Fortunately, my parents chose to live in a duplex only half a block from one of the finest libraries in the world. It was easy to discover interesting books in that library but I don’t remember any thought-out decision points ever being made there.
About that same time my friend and I walked down to the San Francisco Bay, where the day before we had discovered a wooden raft. We had thought about it back home and decided to take that raft out on the bay the next day. It was a nice day, no wind, and the water was calm. The raft had some poles, so we pushed off and poled our way about a hundred yards out when a policeman began yelling at us from shore. We obediently came back in and he drove us home. It was all very friendly and polite with no guilt involved, and just the recommendation that we have an adult with us when we go out again.
I suppose there were earlier decisions I made, but this one was in the form of a discussion with a friend. The dangers were considered and compared to the experience to be had. It seemed like a good idea to us nine-year-old boys to go out onto the San Francisco Bay and see what would happen. What could possibly go wrong?
Two years later, while living in Spokane, Washington, I can remember deciding to do things and doing them, but that event on the Bay was memorable because of the thoughtful discussion with my friend.
Most of the time we just react with what seems like the right thing to do without any analysis of the potential problems.