Friday, 29 March 2013

Lucky to be Alive

Have you ever thought how lucky you are to be alive? It seems like such a simple thought, but it's only when you really look at it that it becomes apparent just how lucky (or unlucky, depending upon your perspective) you really are.

When I consider my life, for example, I can remember almost being run down by a car when I was about 8 or 10 years old. I was being cocky and the driver thought he was going to teach me a lesson. As I leapt out of the path of his accelerating vehicle my trailing foot was caught by his front bumper, which almost tripped me up. I don't think I ever told my parents! It's easy to see what could have happened if I had been half a second slower, or he was half a second quicker. Am I being a little melodramatic here? I don't think so; how many kids are killed on our streets each and every year? It happens!

Now think about your parents. What were their lucky escapes? What illnesses did they have to overcome? How many trees did your father nearly fall out of? If he had died in his teens; if your mother had not made it to childbearing age, you simply would never have lived - ever!

What about your grandparents? They will have lived through at least one world war. My father's house was completely bombed out when he was about 8 or 10 years old. But he had been evacuated to Aberystwyth in Wales and my grandparents were in the bomb shelter or somewhere else. They were never able to live there again. If my grandmother had not been able to send her son away, what then? If they had remained at home and taken a chance that day...

But it's this next thought that really blows my mind. Think about the countless generations of your direct ancestors, going way back down the centuries and even many millennia; right back to their dim and distant past - an unbroken line of parentage eventually leading to you. How many lives make up that lineage? What were the chances of just one of those ancestors actually surviving to procreate? How many individuals even survived childbirth all those years ago? Even in relatively recent times life expectancy was pitifully low. How much more so ten thousand years ago? Now let's take a leap back a few millions of years. Your direct ancestor would be very different from you, but would be your ancestor nonetheless; your great, great, great, great etc (you get the point) grandparent. Somewhere out there he or she would be roaming the earth, sometimes barely surviving and on the lookout for predators. But that ancestor made it through another day... and another... and another... and lived long enough to pass on its precious genes to the next generation. The numbers of ways that any of your ancestors could have met their premature end are legion. If even a single one of them had failed, you would never have existed. I hope that the sheer magnitude of that thought makes you pause at the improbability of your existence. But here you are, reading this blog and you are oh so alive.

So what are you going to do today? If you are anything like me you will go to work, eat, sleep, argue with your spouse from time to time; any of the mundane things people do. But maybe you will do it all with a renewed appreciation for just how lucky, literally, you are to be doing it.

For my part, I will get up early tomorrow morning and take a walk down to the beach and breath in the cold, salty, morning air and be thankful that I am alive another day.

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