Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Miracle of Life: How Existence is Connected and Interdependent

A bright sun is sinking behind the backdrop of mountain and water

Our existence is a miracle. Although this word has strong religious connotations, I am using it here also in an atheistic and scientific manner. Miracle may also be called chance in this case, but the odds of it occurring are so slight and minimal that one has no other choice but to simply call it a miracle or a highly singular event. Imagine winning the lottery not once but a million times over. Then look at yourself in the mirror; these are the odds or the miracle of your existence.

The ideas I am going to present here are meant as encouragement for all of our species to cherish and celebrate life. This is regardless of social status, intelligence, success, or whether you personally think you are a failure or waste of space, nor does it matter whether you think you are useful to society or not.

It is, in fact, the ultimate kind of consolation, and I do not have to grab into the religious bag of tricks to convince. This is about our mere existence in the world, that incredible combination of events that led to the happy coincidence of me writing this post and you reading it.

In order to show how miraculous both our existences are, I would like to start from the present moment and move back in time. I will call this the time spectrum in which we will be moving forward into the future and backward into the past. Along the way, we shall go very far back to the very beginning of our existence, no not Genesis, but the Big Bang.

As to my own existence, it can be traced back to the moment of my birth. Especially after the birth of my own son, I hold the greatest appreciation and esteem for all the gynecologists out there since they are the important, sometimes even essential stepping stones to life in this world.

But my existence can be traced further back to my budding existence within the womb. I am not intending to get into the divisive pro-life versus pro-choice argument here and am not claiming that life happens at any precise moment. I am merely retracing the many steps of my current existence without any moral comment, intention or implication at this point.

So my existence has shrunk to its most minimal pea-sized point. In fact, and now I am feeling extremely uncomfortable, my very existence can be traced back to a precise and fateful night (or day for that matter) of my parents engaging in ... ahem ... a sexual act. I prefer not to imagine its details, and I am looking only at the cold hard facts.

Had they had sex at any other point, my existence would not have turned out the way it did, and I would have not been me but my own brother. Similarly, had another sperm won the rat race inside the womb, I would have been, at least slightly but still significantly different from who I am now.

Somehow two people, my parents in this case, met each other and decided to have a child (at least so I am told) and suddenly I appear on the stage of existence. What, who and where was I before my birth, my coming to this world? My four-year-old son has already stunned me with this question: Where was I before my birth? Not an answer we can google and no expert to give us a definite answer to this mother of Zen koans.

This line of generations will hopefully continue and expand evermore into the future. But it has its definite and firmly set and established roots in the past. My parents themselves were brought into the world by their parents who had met each other previously and their parents, my great-grandparents had come into existence via their own parents and so on.

The amazing feature of this tracing back is the fact that had one chain been even slightly different, should one person or even seemingly trivial or insignificant detail be changed, the whole set of future lives would collapse. This is what Michael J. Fox's character learns in Back to the Future where through sheer coincidence his parents failed to meet, and it completely changed his whole life story.

As if the whole apparently causal chain of existence were not enough, we eventually arrive at the moment of creation of the universe, the Big Bang. Whether it is a singular event or two dense entities or multidimensional strings bouncing into each other still does not diminish the fact that it is an amazing feat; whether it is a supernatural force or God or a host of coincidences does not take away from its awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping truth.

All of this is, however, only half of the story, its vertical part of interdependence across time and generations. But we are also horizontally interdependent and our existence is tied to and sometimes literally depends upon the relationships we have with others. Effectively no one is an island to themselves since it is not only the vertical relationship of the time spectrum ranging from the past to the present that has brought me into existence, but there is also the horizontal relationship between me and the universe around me.

Put differently, I could not have existed and cannot exist without being sustained by others. In my infant and childhood days (even adolescence to an extent) I was dependent mainly on parents for food, shelter and sustenance. Afterwards, it becomes the physical surrounding that takes on this position and fulfills a variety of these needs.

For instance, I work to earn money (a universally agreed upon and recognized symbol and unity) in what we call a society, which can be expanded to become a nation, a continent, the Earth, and yes, the universe again. In order to survive and to continue my existence in this world, I need to use this money to buy food for myself - and my dependents if applicable - and need to pay rent for shelter etc. All this is part of my subsistence. (Of course, I could imagine an alternatively different maybe hermetic lifestyle of hunting and gathering devoid of money and society.)

Thus, my own existence is indeed connected to others living with me in the current plane of existence. They range from family to friends to colleagues to acquaintances, and yes even government employees and tax revenue agents. All of these people constitute society in which I am embedded as one of its many unique members.

In fact, we are all interconnected; it is both on the deepest and on the most basic level. Go back enough into the past and we are all condensed and packed energy in the moment right before the Big Bang. In fact, it was tighter than any can of sardines you could possibly imagine.

This is our miracle of life. Imagine how many billions of coincidences had to occur for you and this moment to take place. Whatever is bothering you, relationship or economic problems, put them all on hold and into perspective and look at the big picture: It is simply a miracle beyond words that we exist.

1 comment:

karen said...

I always figured I was in Hawaii before I was born.
When my now almost 16 year old niece was 4, she was trying to figure out where she had been when her mother was growing up in Wpg. "Oh," she said, "I must have been in Ottawa." Ottawa is where my sister and my niece now live. Makes sense.
Hawaii seems like a nice place to spend eternity so I'll check it out on the other end of life too.