Friday, June 2, 2000

Last night I was overwhelmed by the sheer randomness of life. What are the chances that one of my ancestors would leave his home to move to America? Not knowing a single thing about my family history prior to my grandparents (who always seemed so settled in this world) makes my nationality and identity seem even more mysterious, even undeserved.

Why are my eyes blue? What are the chances that I would have blue eyes? My family history--no matter what mystery--is always already inscribed on my physical self. The fact that I was born in the US during the 60's determined that I would be circumcised. My uncle's death in Viet Nam determined my name. I wear not only my family history but the history of the world on my body and in my identity.

I've been thinking a lot about these issues lately because of my friend Barbara, whose mother left L'viv after WWI. Did any of her family survive the Holocaust or the Stalinist purges or any other historical/personal catastrophe of that region? I'm hoping to conduct research in the nearby villages into Barbara's family history. Not really thinking about finding a long lost cousin, but to find a synagogue or a cemetery that survived, some form of architecture that was seen, entered, touched by someone who once lived related to Barbara--someone Barbara wears in her own body who has determined the sheer random identity of Barbara, my friend whom I met in Arlington, Texas. What are the chances?