I had an interesting experience in life. I wasn’t raised by my father. Moreover, I hadn’t seen or heard from him but for brief instances when I was seven or eight years old. The Absent Father is a constant theme in myth and literature. When you experience that absence, you begin to understand why. The idea that there is someone out there who left you alone in the world takes an emotional toll on a kid growing up. Doubts, insecurities, and a plethora of imaginations about how great the father must be abound.
But you’d think, at least, if the absent father was truly absent, you’d grow up to be nothing like that person. Right?
However, in a series of circumstances that aren’t terribly interesting, I eventually met my father face-to-face and spent some time with him when I was in my early thirties. There was something uncanny about the experience. All my life, I’d never been around anyone who looked like me. At all. Yet this man looked a helluva lot like me, and it was disconcerting as hell. Moreover, I had many of the same habits he had, the same thought processes, and – true or not – I got the idea that I could read him very well, based on the tone of his voice, the inflections he gave certain words, and where his eyes darted to when he was talking or just observing the world around him. I come to believe that on some level, at least, I could actually read his thoughts.
He had never been a person to look up to. Far from it. I was better off without him.
Still, there were those uncanny similarities, and I wondered how much free will we really have to become entirely our own person in this life. Just how far do the dictates of genetics take us in this world and how much control do we really have over the personalities we develop? When we take certain actions or react in certain ways, how much of it is by choice? How much of it is hardwired into us, no matter how we might feel about it?
When I wrote “The Box’s Contents” I was wondering about those things.