You are amazing. Yes, I’m sure you know this, but it’s hard to imagine just what a miracle you truly are.
Your daily life is pretty normal. You make your bed, go to work, and eat lots of potato chips. But you’re totally unaware that you are a rare occurrence in nature.
If we were to diagram how you came to exist, it would boil down to a bunch of statistics and things often found written on the pages of school textbooks, like: “hypotenuse,” “halocarbon-14,” “periosteum membrane,” and “Mister Weinstein’s science class is so boring that I am literally going to die.”
So it’s probably good not to spend too much time thinking about what a miracle you are. Because if you thought about it too often you’d get cocky.
You’re alive. That’s what matters. What’s the point in talking about it? What’s the big deal?
Well, the big deal is this: You are here. Right now. You actually get to exist in the cosmos for a brief blip upon the timeline of the universe. And this is very—I repeat—very rare.
The exact circumstances that formed you predate your mother and father. They predate your ancient ancestors. They reach back to your prehistoric great-great-granddaddies and great-great-grannies who managed to stay alive long enough to make babies.
But I’m out of my league here. I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing about science or math. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend I didn’t fail Mister Weinstein’s science class. (I did.)
Let’s take a look at the simple probability of your life. We’ll start with your dad meeting your mom. That seems easy enough, right?
Nope. It wasn’t easy. Do you realize how statistically uncommon it is for two people to meet? You’re looking at odds of one in 20,000.
Basically, imagine your mom going to a baseball stadium and introducing herself every male in the seats to find your dad. Chances are your dad is in the nosebleeds because he’s a tightwad. So it’s going to take your mother a long time.
And here is where things get complicated. Once they’ve met, the odds of your parents actually falling in love are even slimmer. Despite what you see in the movies, falling in love is an anomaly according to mathematicians.
I’m skipping over a lot of stuff because frankly I am not smart enough to understand math. But so far, according to some smart scientist’s calculations, the combined odds are one in 40 million that your parents managed to make you.
And I’m just warming up. Stay with me here because your odds of being born get smaller. Let’s fast forward to when you were conceived.
You know how it works. Your parents exchanged wedding rings; they bought a house with a carport and 1.5 bathrooms; they bought a Chevy that uses more gasoline than a small cargo freighter. Now it’s time for them to have a baby. That’s where you come in.
As of this moment you are a microscopic “tadpole” who really wants to be born. But so what? Lots of tadpoles want to be born. In fact, you are just one of 20 million tadpoles who are all fighting each other for the chance.
This means that not only do you have 20 million fierce competitors, but you have to be in extremely good shape to even compete.
And your odds of being a buff little tadpole are not good. Sixty percent of your father’s tadpoles don’t swim forward, they go in circles. Ninety-six percent of them have abnormal morphology—two heads or two tails. Another thirty-two percent will be busy playing on their phones.
See how hard this is? If you’re going to win this race, you have to be in the UPPER FOUR PERCENT of racing tadpoles.
Anyway, the tadpole marathon is about to begin. Better start loosening up those old hamstrings. Look alive, little tadpole.
On your mark.
Do the backstroke!
Now you have a lot to think about while you’re swimming through your mother’s biology. First off, the chances of you outrunning 20 million swimmers are pretty crummy. But the chances of you hitting a bullseye are way worse.
To show you just how improbable egg fertilization is, imagine a fish swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Now envision this fish flopping out of the water at a random geographical spot on the globe. Now imagine the odds of this fish jumping directly through the center of a toilet seat that HAPPENS to be floating nearby.
The odds of this happening—this is true—are one in 700 trillion. Which is pretty close to the actual odds for fertilization, which are one in 400 trillion. With these odds, you have a better chance of getting hit by a UFO piloted by Garth Brooks.
But once you do hit your bullseye, now comes the hard part. Now you have to grow, develop brain tissue, eyes, arms, ears, toes, and a cute little baby butt.
Then there’s delivery itself. Which, if you ask your mom, is no cakewalk.
A lot could go wrong during pregnancy. What if you’re born premature? What if your mother has an accident? What about miscarriages? There are thousands of reasons why you might not have been born.
But you were.
One glad moment in history, you emerged into this bright world. The doctor held you, you drew a breath, your lungs inflated, your circulatory system started surging. You became one of the lucky few to know the marvel of life itself. And here you are. A living miracle.
In other words: Happy birthday to my friend Jeri.