Damn. We’re absolutely blessed to be here.
My old roommate told me this awesome story about witnessing something on a New York City subway:
She was sitting next to a couple young guys who were loudly bragging to each other about how successful they were going to be selling drugs together. They talked about how they’d make tons of money and be the coolest kids ever. They were doing it loudly, swearing a lot, and basically just trying to make a scene.
All of a sudden, an old man sitting across from them dropped some knowledge.
“Are you guys kidding me? You’ve won the cosmic lottery!“
He went on to explain how infinitely unlikely it is that they are alive.
The way my roommate described it, his explanation was strikingly similar to this great quote from This Book Will Change Your Life: 365 Daily Instructions for Hysterical Living:
“There is 1 chance in 140 trillion that the Earth should exist. There is 1 chance in 795 billion that life should have evolved on earth. There is 1 chance in 89 billion that life should have evolved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 12 billion that mankind should have created the alphabet and thus civilization. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents should ever have met and got together. There is 1 chance in 90 million that you should have been the lucky sperm that fertilized your mother’s egg…”
— Ben Carey
After the old guy made his point, everybody on the train started cheering for him. A lot different from a usual ride in New York City.
The Cosmic Evolutionary Process
We are part of an epic cosmic evolutionary process. Our universe has been growing for an incredibly long time, and we happen to have a miraculous place in its history.
Our degree of awareness, both of what is inside and outside of ourselves, is what makes humanity so astounding. The gifts we have, the richness of our life experience, is a truly rare phenomenon.
The best guess for how this whole thing started is that there was an explosion of unimaginableenergy, the big bang, which initiated the ecstatic movement of particles throughout a continually-expanding space.
Particles interacted with each other, having all sorts of particle sex, until molecules emerged. Molecules had molecular sex and created more complex chemical compounds. Chemicals floated into each other and gravitated together, creating colossal clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. When gravity has its way with a nebula, it pulls dust and gas together to form stars and huge rocks.
One nebula gave birth to a rock we call Earth and a star we call the sun. These two bodies happened to form a vibrant relationship with each other.
Some pretty exceptional atmospheric conditions arose hugging Earth. Water started falling onto Earth’s surface. There was a lot of carbon around.
We know that as time passed life got more and more complex. Starting out as tiny bacterial organisms, various life forms changed across generations to better adapt to their environments. An organism needed to fit its environment appropriately to survive, hence survival of the fittest, and this need for adaptation drove organic evolution.
Somewhere along the way, organisms got so complex that they needed awareness to function. A first-person experience was necessary to ensure the organism could complete all the tasks it needed for survival.
Organisms kept evolving, and the capacities of awareness evolved within them. Animals with greater ranges of sensation emerged. Animals with the ability to feel emotion emerged. Animals with advanced cognitive processes, the ability to learn, and the facility of thinking emerged.
Which brings us… to us! Humans are a very recent evolutionary phenomenon, with magnificently advanced forms of awareness. Our capacities to sense, feel, and think go far beyond any other organism on this planet.
I imagine other animals have experiences much richer than most of us assume. But it’s clear that the abilities granted by our awareness give us a wider breadth of capability and a more sophisticated way of understanding reality than any other animal we’ve encountered.
The cosmic evolutionary process that has given birth to us is worthy of reverence. It’s incredible, unimaginable. You can’t make this shit up.
But don’t forget that we ourselves are also worthy of reverence. We are a truly fucking exceptional part of this whole thing.
Your Sublime Opportunity
A lot of crazy stuff had to happen for you to be here.
An uncountable number of tiny details in our cosmic history have made the difference between us being here and us not. Things happened just right in our little corner of the Milky Way.
Small alterations in how it went down could have screwed everything up.
If the earth was just a little farther away or a little closer to the sun, then it may never have become suitable for life. If Jupiter’s gargantuan mass didn’t pull in asteroids, then Earth would be frequently plummeted by immense rocks from the asteroid belt.
There are so many things that could have prevented our lives from ever happening. So many puzzle pieces had to come together in exactly the right order to create our lives. Our existence is immeasurably unlikely.
But it’s happening anyway. We’re alive.
This makes your life a sublime opportunity.
The opportunity to breathe. The opportunity to walk. The opportunity to share a conversation. To taste a tangy fruit or feel expansive as you stand at the top of a mountain. These are opportunities that, in all likelihood, we really shouldn’t have.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Your life is a miracle.
So start treating it that way! Every day find a moment to remind yourself that your existence is amazing. For a quick second, practice gratefulness and thank the universe for your opportunity to participate with it.
Use your time. Every moment you have is valuable. Recognize that value by not wasting your moments, your days, your life. Do that awesome thing you want to do. Create something. Give someone help and kindness. Take time to sit, meditate, contemplate, and appreciate things quietly and calmly.
Be productive, mindful, or both! However you do it, soak up every drop of life you have in the best way you can.
I like to think that when I live this way, the universe sits back and smiles at a job well done.
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