The human being thrives, we dominate this strange blue and green globe, we are so used to being in control and protected from nature, how much like our earliest ancestors are we? How like other animals are we?
If you were born any other creature, life is crushingly hard, just a survival exercise from the moment of birth to the moment of death, death likely being consumption by a larger animal or ravaged by some plague. There are no days off, no festivals, no hobbies or vanity projects, no healthcare, no central heating no 24 hours of wall to wall media entertainment, just the pursuit of food, shelter and a mate.
Our existence appears to be an anomaly, or else a gift from what some call God. Given that the universe appears so barren a billion light years in every direction, what are we to make of it?
It is when I think like this that I feel more than extraordinarily lucky, ludicrously so, impossibly so...me, who never wins anything has not only been granted life on the only known life sustaining island in the whole universe but I get to live in the west, a place largely free from anything remotely life threatening.
Not only that, but in some ways largely free from any discomfort, most of us will keep our limbs, most of us will be warm and cool as we choose, few of us are imprisoned by hopeless misery, many of us have fulfilling lives. Further more, I am afflicted with only minor irritations given the lifeless vacuum of space or the terrifying plight of a rabbit.
I get headaches more than most people, horrible debilitating ones that make my skin cold, occasional full blown migraines that can put me in the company of some unrelenting torturer. At 45 my vision breaks down on close up, I have a strange fatigue that seems to lead to flu like symptoms and so I have to be careful how much I do, I get lumbago from time to time, a peculiar condition where nothing hurts yet I can feel chronically uncomfortable for days at a time oh, and I get a bit of arthritis flare up in my picking hand, a nodule where the cure was once to slam it with a bible. I am lucky that I get to live where I live, a quiet, healthy and creative place, a job that I like, two healthy children, a partner to which I am still extremely attracted to. We are not rich, but we are never hungry or too cold. We don't own our own home, but we have a stable situation, surrounded by quality schools and well-behaved neighbours.
How much more lucky could I be?
I wonder what right I have to all this. What did I do to earn it?
Really not very much I suspect, I have been thinking more on this as I get older and I am not sure who to thank, or how to comprehend the enormity of the system that allows me to live the way I do.
Did God do this? Does he/she/it constantly adjust the environment, socially and economically that most of us are spared the awfulness of fire, flood and famine? Or has it been the hundreds of thousands of years of our ancestors, who worked towards the equilibrium we benefit from today?
All those wars, all that law, those inventions and constitutions. What have I done to contribute to this?
I have a friend who is very well off, who looks after her two sons and works extremely hard to give them the comforts of life. I once asked her how she protects them from taking this for granted, how does the incumbent generation appreciate that what they have is only a strand of reality, that they could just as easily not be living in a house they own, or get a car for their 17th birthday. Neither of us knew the answer to this. However, I felt some relief to think that while my own children do not really go without anything, that they are not merely going to inherit a life of boundless comfort, that any future home will have to be sourced themselves and that they will have to discover their unique path in the world.
What then, of us - the civilised human being of the 21st century? How can we possibly appreciate how densely protected we are from living like animals? From fighting to the death or suffering as they do?
We take it all for granted and what worries me is that we think we have a right to it all, that this reality is the reality to which we are entitled, not actually a finely tuned, precious and vulnerable reality that could collapse if pushed just a micro-meter too far in one direction. We assume too readily that we are somehow at a sustainable high of human civilisation, that our future is only to expand and improve, life to be extended and pleasures to be indulged further.
Removing God from this, which I hesitate to do because I think it goes along way to explain much about our success, we really are at the mercy of our environment. We are like an air pocket in an ocean, a bubble that could be popped deliberately by some mischievous entity without any thought or consideration, and if not that how far really are we from descending into a world war that could wipe out half of the global population or creating the conditions for an irreversible environmental catastrophe.
We don't have a right to live, only the motivation to preserve life.