Originally published on Medium:
When you think about it, we are profoundly lucky.
We are, all of us, each, a winner — one, in 100 million. The molecules inside us have to undertake an unimaginable number of permutations to get to a place where a muscle, encased in bone — a battery built of itself — pumps a liquid full of oxygen, in perfect rhythm, to two opposite ends of our bodies. That liquid, which is produced inside of us, without us giving it any thought or direction, feeds our brains — the only computer we can’t understand or replicate.
If that weren’t enough, we are surrounded by air, which our lungs use to breathe. We have the sun, which our skin uses to heal, which it does on its own. We have water, which our bodies use to survive. We have earth, which we use to make shelter. We have food growing all around us.
We have parents, and ancestors to give us guidance; we have siblings and friends to keep us full; we have lovers and partners to give us purpose; we have children to give us meaning. And we inhabit a planet, floating in nothingness, surrounded by endless possibilities and endless explorations, yet presently, no other signs of life anywhere around us in the darkness.
When I think of big things not on this list, I think of hospitals and medicine and solutions for people whose bodies won’t work without assistance. I think of electricity, which we need, but overuse. I think of transportation, which helps us move, and connect, and traverse, but also jeopardizes this exceptional planet. I think of politics, which were invented to force our own evolutionary way of thinking to rise above lizard brain, but also money, power, and war — the three dumbest reasons a just-slightly-higher-than-lizard brain could invent to inadvertently ruin what’s actually important, with what we think is important.
We’re lucky to have diversity; can you imagine how boring life would be if we were the only aspects to existence that were monochromatic? We’re lucky to have different sizes and shapes to keep us from looking exactly alike, and therefore totally unspecial and ununique. We’re lucky to have eyes so we can see, and also be identified. We’re lucky to have ears, which are near-perfect acoustic instruments that turn the sounds of nature into music. We’re lucky to have a thermal exhaust port on our bodies — a tiny, intricate system that powers the entire host through only two exposed holes on the nose. We’re lucky to find attraction in our Rolodex of emotional, chemical, and biological responses, even if we’re constantly searching all three categories to locate the card.
We’re lucky to have vision and beauty and color. We’re lucky to have art, and perspective. We’re lucky to have history, because it makes us interesting. Every single soul that has ever lived had a story, and the incalculable many that came before us had limited ways of telling their stories as opposed to we, right now, who have unlimited access to tell our own, every day, in 280-character, brightly filtered, dog-eared, sticker-covered, loud, colorful, literally limitless ways.
We are lucky to have jazz and opera and rock & roll. We’re lucky to have theater and carnivals and magic shows, and we’re even lucky to have a brain capable of asking if magic is real or just really great performance. We’re lucky that through existence we can create art, and jazz, and opera, and the sound of Keith Richard’s guitar on “Love in Vain.” Or Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “You’re No Good.” We’re lucky that we can even have a Keith Richards or a Linda Ronstadt, let alone both of them at the same time. When we’re unlucky to no longer have the greats of the past with us any longer, we’re lucky to have film, photography, computers, audio tape, pens, paper, and Nina Simone records. We’re lucky that every speck of dust that’s necessary for each and every one of us to exist and create is in its exact way and place in time and space, or otherwise the whole fabric of our universe would be different. We’re lucky that we have love, compassion, and family — the three best reasons a just-slightly-but-still-pretty-advanced-when-you-think-about-it lizard brain could ever synthesize throughout our species’s existence as reasons of importance.
When you really think about it, past the garbage cans of media shouting, and the tire fires of politics; past the aggravated jolt-tug that is opportunism and greed; past the noise and the fear and the inability for a moment to ever just land perfectly still and quiet and cool and also somehow warm; past the arguing and bickering and things that give us drama because we secretly think we need drama to give us something to feel above and better than...even though we’re not. When you really think about all of the violence and murder we cause each other…when you think about all of the pain. When you really think about the way we choose to treat each other, sometimes blindly and other times maliciously, it’s sadly easy to forget about all of the amazing things that make us profoundly lucky.
But for a moment, let’s think about something bigger than we are — let’s think about space. The thing about space exploration that always captures my imagination is that we get most excited as a species when we find water on distant objects in space. We look at water as a sign that the object could sustain life as we know it, but we also get excited because life usually leaves behind footprints in ice, like the way thick truck tires leave bricks of bluebird snow and old-shoe dirt in the dried mud of a January morning. Ice is crucial to space science because it might be full of footprints, and footprints not only tell us that the object could sustain life, but also, that it already has. A history, in a footprint, in a spec of dust, on a distant rock, seen through a camera, piloted in nothingness, transmitted through science, invented by people.
When you really think about it, if we stopped devoting so much of our lives to the pursuits and fatalistic nature of the idle and petty thinking of our early lizard past; if we started living actively in the present, instead of passively; conscious in reality; aware of more; the thumping of everyday drama and emotional noise turned down to a hum; if we started talking, instead of typing; if we all started appreciating how each person now feels empowered to tell their own story, and therefore we all started listening, and also telling better stories; if we all remembered that for every top hit on Spotify, there’s a Django Reinhardt song from the 1940s that is better…but the pop song is pretty good, too…
When you really think about it, we’ve forgotten that nature is glorious, because each iteration of technology that we develop is predicated on simulating the sheer detail and complexity of nature, and yet it continusely puts a barrier between us and all of the stuff outside. Outside is full of nature — it’s all around us and totally free to look at, even though we often cut it down and take it away and build on it, and cover it over with stores that sell us junk we don’t need, artificial food that’s really bad for us, and so much entertainment that we’re actually just numb. We take away nature to build lots of buildings, and then we fill those buildings with plants because doctors on television tell us that more oxygen in our bedrooms would fix that sleeping problem we have, which is probably caused more by watching too many doctors talking on television.
When you really think about how we don’t ever realize how far we’d go to protect, defend and love our families and friends…until we do…and the lengths we’ll go are so far it actually surprises us. When you really think about the incredible opportunity we have to learn everything we can, just to pass it on to other people, especially children… When you really think about the fact that water and earth on distant rocks provide a best chance for an alien species to understand the lives and culture and matters of importance upheld by the creatures that lived there, all while studying the footprints they left behind in ice…and how some day, some other organisim might come here and study ours and see how we lived…
A species, capable of traveling the stars, resolute in the heroic exploration of our selves and our surroundings. A species of thinkers, and doers, and writers and painters and artists; a species of doctors and lawyers and poets and teachers. Seven billion people, sharing one home, hurtling together through space at a thousand miles per hour. Most of us, able to learn everything there is to know, able to share our stories in an instant to every part of the globe with an internet connection. Surrounded by nature, prefaced by history, guided by ancestors, supported by friends, revered by children. Capable of William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Keith Richards and Linda Ronstadt. Hosts to Elon Musk, Richard Branson, the Dalai Lama, and Malala Yousafzai. Imperfect creatures of near perfect biologies; walking cities of blood and oxygen, bacteria and molecule, self-forming, self-healing, self-propelling — the product of a big bang of one-in-one-hundred-million creation.
When you really think about it, we are extraordinarily lucky to be here, together, in this moment. No one in all of history has ever been as lucky as we are right now. No one. Ever.
When you think about it, we are profoundly lucky.