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to realize that for all the talk of heaven and hell that most people, including my
parents, really didnt take religion very seriously. I was a bit intellectually
precocious as a child. At the age of nine I began avidly reading biographies of great men.
I dont remember who they all were today but I recall noting that they came from
various ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. My training that only Catholics had a
monopoly on goodness was already getting a severe drubbing. Clearly greatness depended
more upon conduct than upon creed, more upon character than on belief.
I remember one experience in particular when I was about ten. We lived in La
Crosse, Wisconsin, a small city on the Mississippi River. One day my brother and I
were walking on the ice of the river, which froze over in the winter. He dared me to walk
near a hole in the ice. Being not only daring but also foolish I took a few steps towards
the hole and suddenly fell through the ice. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself back up
onto the ice or I would have surely drowned. This shocked me and produced a moment
of introspection in which my entire life flashed before me. After walking home I happened to see a television program on the Maya Indians
of Central America and their strange rituals. I felt that this was a world that would be
important to me for the future. I had undergone some sort of initiation and was ready for
a new life.