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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Unlikely odds: The staggering probability of being alive

Apr 28, 2024 12:13PM ● By Wendell Fowler

While I was in the hospital recovering from a cardioversion to reset my irregular heartbeat, I found myself unintentionally tuning into a conversation from the recovery bay next to me. 

The patient, who had just undergone heart surgery, was asked by the nurse about the first meal he wanted once he got home. My head twirled like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist,” when he replied, “a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.”

Throughout my life, I’ve heard people say, “Well, you gotta die from something!” But a choice like this one leads me to ponder the question, “Why are we here?” It’s unlikely our purpose is merely for fleeting pleasures. Our existence, as human beings on Earth, seems to be an extraordinary chance to experience and learn.

We may take our brief moment in the cosmos for granted, often treating our bodies with the recklessness of bumper cars at an amusement park. Yet, presents a staggering statistic: the likelihood of any of us existing is about 1 in 10^2,685,000—that’s 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes! It’s a probability so minuscule that it borders on the impossible. So the odds of us being alive are basically zero.

We are, essentially, walking miracles—complex beings fashioned from minerals, elements and water, encapsulated in trillions of cells.

Our physical form—a complex ensemble of skin, bone and tissue—is more than just a vessel. It’s a dynamic, energetic, flesh-enshrouded scaffold, housing a conscious spirit and carrying arguably the most powerful computer known to man—the human brain. 

The old adage passed down from our parents—that our bodies are resilient and can digest almost anything that isn’t patently poisonous—may need revisiting. Today’s escalating chronic disease rates, pervasive emotional turbulence and a predilection for living in states of fear, anger and subsequent violence suggest that something is amiss. Ideally, our natural state should be one of health and happiness.

Gary Zukav, a renowned spiritual teacher and New York Times bestselling author, describes the Earth as an extensive and continuous learning environment. It’s a vivid, three-dimensional, interactive and multimedia experience that persists until the soul departs from the body. Each moment here offers invaluable opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

The sustenance we choose feeds the myriad of cells within us, providing the necessary resources for protection, healing and maintenance. Our approach to the nourishment of our human vehicle can indeed seem naive, often overlooking the delicate balance necessary for overall health. The Standard American Diet (SAD) summarizes a diet high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. A report from the National Institutes of Health attributes 45% of deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes to poor dietary choices that align with the SAD.

Just as a vehicle requires proper fuel and maintenance to function optimally, our bodies also need the right nutrients to prevent breakdowns. Without appropriate care, just like a neglected car, our bodies are prone to “sputter and fail.” The tools for our maintenance are a balanced, informed diet and a lifestyle that promotes wellness.

Life, however, is not merely about playing it safe. By embracing life fully, we allow ourselves to take risks, make mistakes, endure loss and also to get up, learn, persist and ultimately flourish. 

Life, especially as viewed by a 70 something-year-old like me, is a continuous cycle of learning. Recognizing and seizing the educational opportunities presented by our “flash-in-the-pan” tenure in this universal School of Life is a gift. As Henry Ford suggested, death comes not when we cease to breathe, but when we halt our learning.