Added On: Sunday, November 04, 2007

Invested in you

One of the amazing thing about life and the world is that it's often much more interesting than it appears. Even the most mundane scenes and circumstances turn out to be deep and complex once you have the nous to look underneath the covers.

Astonishment at the magic behind the mundane can be what separates the intelligent and curious from the slow and dull. Where the latter sees only another suburban back-yard, the former sees an ecosystem teeming with life and complexity.

One of the many great examples of this is your own fascinating history. The vast majority of it certainly isn't documented anywhere, but you can have a good guess at the remarkable events that lie behind your own existence. You may think the story of your own life isn't that interesting, but that's certainly not true, with all sorts of exciting events hidden behind the ordinary facade.

For it's astonishingly improbable that you even exist at all. There is, of course, the extreme unlikelihood that the sperm which fertilized your mother's egg was the one that it was. If any of the other five hundred million sperm had made it at the moment of conception, then you'd be a different person. But on top of that, the exact sperm to build you had to make it to the right egg down through thousands of generations. If anything had gone wrong during any of this chain of amazing coincidences, you would never have existed. That you're here at all is remarkable.

And those thousands of generations that led up to you spanned the difficult and bloody history of humanity. Your ancestors were certainly involved in great migrations, crossing seas and continents in search of a better life for themselves. Whether this was as cavemen moving from the Middle East into Europe, or as Asian seafarers from a thousand years ago, that history is certainly one of great adventure and hardship.

Your ancestors had to survive all the great challenges that humanity has faced. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis probably featured somewhere down the line. Disease, injury, accident and high child mortality were faced and overcome with a bravery we can barely fathom.

Great bloody wars with rape, fire and pillage almost certainly took place. Perhaps your ancestors were the perpetrators or perhaps they were the victims of a terrible attack. Probably, a mixture of both featured down into your distant past. A mother whose village was attacked and burned may have escaped into the wilderness with her only surviving child - your distant foremother. Or a brave warrior, a distant source of your bloodline, may have fought and won to protect his family from the invading hoards.

The chances of this bloodline leading to the creation of you were so small as to be virtually impossible. All that had to go wrong was one thing among all the millions of events and you would never have been born. Perhaps a particular man or woman may have been killed before they conceived a child, or a chance coincidence between two lovers could have been interrupted by some event. That would have been all it took, and the bloodline leading to you would have been severed.

A desperate battle for survival, both to protect themselves and their descendents, was undertaken by thousands of your ancestors in the lead up to yourself in today's world. And now here you are, their great hope, leading what you probably assume to be a pretty ordinary life. Their struggle and efforts to protect your bloodline from disease, injury, hunger, battle and natural disaster are all but taken for granted now, but you can be sure that they took place.

It's astonishing really. So amazing that it's difficult to get your head around. But it happened. The fact that you're here to read these words is proof.

So if you're feeling a bit down in the dumps sometimes and as if life is shallow and meaningless, think back to these basic truths. Be aware of the enormous effort an hope that's been invested in you, and try to live a life worthy of that down-payment.

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