What Is A Life?
When I was still quite young, around eight years of age, I understood that my days were numbered and that every passing moment was carrying me inexorably toward my death. This may seem morbid, but the effect was to ensure that to the best of my ability I have lived my life as fully and as consciously as possible. Whereas a lot of people seem to sleepwalk through their lives, I’ve done my best to appreciate every moment.
It is an extraordinary thing to exist. Had a different sperm fused with the same egg, or had intercourse happened earlier or later in the year, each one of us would not be here. Those who have lived are vastly outnumbered by all those who could have, but did not, come into existence. We are the results of chance and we have been given the entirely unearned gift of life. The fact we squander this gift is a sad reflection on how little we value the most precious thing we will ever have.
Mine has been a fortunate life. I was born a white male to parents whose citizenship was of a developed Western nation. I did not have to struggle to survive from my earliest years. Although my childhood (spent predominantly in what were then called Third World countries) was unstable, often unsafe, and occasionally extremely violent, compared to many of my peers I was privileged. Although by the age of eleven I’d already been shot (though it hardly counts, as the bullet merely grazed a rib) and witnessed sudden mob slaughter in a dusty Mombasa marketplace, I was reasonably well-fed and had a bed to sleep in each night. My body did not rot by the roadside as did the bodies of the children I saw as I sat in a rickety bus driving north on rutted roads as part of an “adventure trip.”
My good fortune continued into adult life. There were many occasions upon which disaster could have struck, but it never did. A few broken bones here and there were a very small price to pay for the skills acquired and the knowledge gained. In addition to being trained by specialists I ended up going to one of the world’s most elite universities, and both my children survived childhood and grew into self-sustaining adults. I like to think that I have helped quite a few people along the way, and although my view of human nature is not rosy, I have cherished…