How many of us woke up this morning feeling lucky to be alive?
Have you ever really thought about it?
We homo sapiens are the only surviving species of human on this planet, and we started stomping around this place around 200 000 years ago. Our ancestors date back even further, to about 2 million years ago.
I’ve read somewhere that since the beginning of time, there has been billions of different species of living things on this planet. Most of them, over 99% to be less vague, no longer exist on this earth.
Given our planet’s capacity to completely destroy even the mightiest of species (see: dinosaurs), we’re pretty lucky to have just survived and thrived as long as we have. I mean, we’re still here and, other than a few bad apples, we’re doing some pretty awesome shit.
And that’s just our species as a whole. How lucky are YOU to be alive?
You were lucky enough to be born into a time when infant mortality in the west wasn’t a massive issue, but for most of the history of humanity it was. You’ve survived the potential for a freak accident that is everywhere around you, and somehow you’ve made it to where you are now. You even survived high school. You avoided or defeated fatal diseases. You were born into a time where there was no “great” war to go off to. Even those of you who have fought for your country , if you’re reading this you’ve been lucky enough to survive the many perils of war.
But your luck goes further back than that.
When your father did his duty to evolution, he mailed a little care package of between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells towards two microscopic targets. That means your odds of getting here in the first place was over ten times worse than your odds are to win the lottery. You were the one in a billion (or if you’re a fraternal twin like I am, one of two in a billion) to hit the target(s). That’s pretty fucking awesome. Well done, you little swimmer you.
Your majestic mother, with a feminine power that can shake the earth, kept you safe and warm in her stomach for around nine months. Let me repeat that. SHE GREW YOU IN HER BELLY. I think it’s far too often lost on us how absolutely miraculous that is.
But what had to happen before your father’s parcel delivery (what can I say, I like the mailman reference and I’m sticking to it.), and before your mother carried you around?
Your mother and father had to be luckier than you did. Not only did they both have to be sufficiently blessed to survive to an age where reproduction was possible, but they had to be genetically attractive enough to find a mate, and biologically functional enough to engage in the act of reproduction. They did it a time slightly more dangerous for infant mortality, for safety standards, and for war.
They had to have parents with even better luck than them. Their parents were born around the time of a second world war, when modern medicine was just beginning to take flight, and when safety standards were none existent. As you go further and further down your family line, you were luckier and luckier that those ancestors survived and thrived long enough to produce your grandmother, or your great great grandfather. If any one of them down the line didn’t get so lucky, you wouldn’t be here.
And it’s a pretty long line you have to look down. Let’s say you go down (up?) the family tree only through the matriarchal side. Her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on. Let’s also say that the average age for having a child was twenty years old, though it was probably younger than that for most of human history. Following just the line of your mother, your grandmothers had to be extremely lucky in an unbroken chain of 100 000 consecutive mothers. Add in the exponential nature of equation when you start including the patriarchs, and their mothers, and the number becomes unfathomable.
That doesn’t even include the biological line that goes beyond the modern view of a human. Our species came from another, which came from another, all of which had to be extremely lucky on both sides of the family, all the way back to the first signs of life 3.8 billion years ago.
Not one of those billions of ancestors was unlucky enough to die of small pox, get sacrificed in honour of Huitzilopochtli, or be eaten by a hippopotamus before they found an equally lucky (and suitable) mate to make the next in line until, eventually, they reached you.
So how lucky are you to be alive? Pretty lucky.
Be good to each other,
Featured photo courtesy of daddyelk.com
Raptor photo courtesy of reddit.com