Luck plays a far greater role in our life than we are willing to acknowledge, for the obvious reason that it detracts from our role as agents. I, for one, used to see myself as planning my career path and then following it. Only now, in extreme old age, do I find the idea of that planned life untenable. Looking back, at critical points, it was not the wisdom of my planning, but rather happenstance that took me to the more fruitful way. Let me start with graduate school, a choice I had to make in my last year as an undergraduate at Oxford. Which? UC-Berkeley or UW-Madison, both at that time were famous for their geography departments. One day, as I was about to go out of the house where I domiciled as a student, a voice in the living room beckoned me to come in for a moment. She wanted to introduce me to a visiting professor of Chinese literature from Berkeley who, upon hearing that I was interested in an American institution for graduate studies, proceeded immediately to sell his university. He told me about his geographer colleague Carl Sauer and his innovative ideas. Not having received a similar pitch from UW-Madison, I, a twenty-year-old greenhorn, decided to favor Berkeley. For a maverick like me, it was decidedly the right choice. In retro- spect, however, I can’t help wondering, what if on that October day in 1951, I stepped out of the house a moment earlier or later? I might then have studiously examined the offerings of both universities and came out in favor of staid Madison.

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