The Astronomically Low Probability That You Would Be You

Each of us is all the sums he has not yet counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.”  Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

“Here we go again.” These are the words you should be thinking when attending a wedding. Or looking into the face of your newborn child. Or maybe even when you stare across a crowded room and lock eyes with one particular member of the opposite sex.

We are the sum of all the men and women we are descended from.

The author's great-great-grandfather, who had to survive the Civil War for there to be this author

In every generation for as far back as humans have existed, those men and women had to survive, sometimes against tremendous odds. They had to meet. The had to be available in geography and in time. They had to copulate. And someone had to sustain their offspring to maturity to keep the cycle going.

Had the soldier not survived the war. Had the trolley car not been missed. Had the college not been selected. Had the job not been offered. Had another guy asked your mother to dance first. Had “Match.com” selected different matches. Had the teenaged girl been supervised in the afternoons. Had the mother successfully avoided unwanted intercourse. Had birth control been used. Whatever might have prevented that particular man, your biological father, and that particular woman, your biological mother, from bringing together their 64+ trillion unique combinations of genes, would have resulted in there not being the you that you are.

There, but for the grace of God, go I? Not entirely true. As an old proverb says, “Breed is stronger than pasture.”

Think about your ancestors. Subtract yourself into nakedness. Do it…

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6 responses to “The Astronomically Low Probability That You Would Be You

  1. Great thought, even better writing. Got me doing the math! Even though we maybe a product of the past…Im glad I’m a sum total of me + the ancestral trail. I’ve questioned this trail a dozenial times…What if my dad had siblings, what if my dad hadn’t married my mom, what if I wasn’t the first child….But I am and the trail is what it is….
    “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change” was written for a reason! 🙂

  2. Great brevity piece. This is one of my favorites. Very thought provoking.

  3. Argh, you’ve got me thinking way more than I should be doing on a friday afternoon!

    I’m on the nature/nurture think-wagon now.

    I go forth once again, in an attempt not to turn into my mother one day. Seems to be going okay, I appear to be turning into my dad (now I can afford the right sort of cognac)

    Good piece!

  4. Ok, Gordon, now that you’ve got everybody’s heads spinning, consider that I was adopted and see what that does to your math! 😉 nice post

  5. I’ve thought about this a bunch lately. Enjoyed this post a while back but my internet dropped while trying to make a comment.

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