Being Thankful – Playing the game of life

It is always important to appreciate what you have…because it, whatever it is, always ends up changing or becomes unrecoverable given enough time. Nothing lasts forever. Everything degrades.

Knowing this fact, I very routinely ruminate on these things and try to be thankful for what I have. Over Thanksgiving dinner, one of my family members asked others what they were thankful for. There were the usual answers, but I had a much deeper response to this question. However, being the extreme introvert that I am…I remained silent. However, I’d like to address that here now.

What am I thankful for? Being alive. No, not the corny, cookie-cutter response. I’m talking about the very ridiculous nature of existing in the first place. I don’t think many people really ever go to the level of introspection necessary to truly appreciate this. I have thought about this countless times in my life, and whenever I’ve thought I’ve reached the breaking point during life’s trials, this is what I always come back to: I have won a million lotteries in a row by being given the chance to even play the game of life. Whatever my setbacks are, they’re not that important in the grand scheme of things. I get a chance to play. That means more than anything.

The very first time I had ever encountered any form of media discuss this very topic was the underrated movie The Watchmen (2009). There’s a scene when Dr Manhattan talks about the unfathomable nature of existing:

I was pretty shocked to finally witness someone…anyone mention this! This scene was a big deal when I saw it. Finally, finally someone else gets it!

Digging today, it looks like someone actually put some math to this. Spoiler alert: the chances of you existing are 10^2,6850,00 to 1. Put another way: 0 (there are ~10^80 atoms in the known universe, if that puts it into perspective). There is  an approximately zero percent probability that you should exist. 

And to be honest, I think the odds are worse than that. The article above goes a little bit into unbroken lineage, but consider that: every single event that has occurred for the last billions of years needed to occur in exactly the same order for you to be here. That dinosaur that lived 65 million years ago needed to step on that butterfly. World War II had to happen. Every single person who died in that war needed to do every little thing exactly like they did for you to be here. Your mom and dad needed to do their business on that very specific interval for you to be here. I could go on and on…IT SHOULD BLOW YOUR MIND CONSIDERING THESE VARIABLES!

So again, why am I thankful? I’m thankful because I shouldn’t be here to begin with. Everything else is just gravy.

Of course, it’s not all gravy. There is so much pain. Life is pain. Humans have constructed various artifacts to try to mitigate the pain, but it is unavoidable. Like I said before, everything degrades. Everything ends. Here’s an example:

This series of events occurred in the last 24 hours:

  • Wife and I purchased a Christmas tree; bundled it up, brought it home
  • When we got home, I saw that we had some scrap wood in the corner, “Hey, we should cut up this piece of particle board so we can put the tree stand on it and not mess up the floors in the house”.
  • We did that, and as I was bringing the stand inside, I thought, “Wow, this is really dirty, let me blow off some of these cobwebs”.
  • I did not consider the fact that there might have been sawdust in the stand.
  • There was sawdust in the stand. I was not wearing eye protection.
  • Eye wash ensued. Did not help. I tried for an hour or so off and on.
  • I eventually went to bed hoping it would clear in the morning. It did not…I immediately scheduled an appointment (and found out later I got lucky in that a person cancelled so I could be squeezed in).
  • It was not that painful, it is just one of the most uncomfortable feelings I think you can have. Blinking hurts. Blinking. Try to not blink. Try to not move your eyeball. Excruciatingly cruel… I have a new respect for being able to blink today.
  • Doctor found a “white gob” of stuff stuck on my upper eyelid and removed it; said I had superficial eye damage that would heal within 24 hours
    • Was actually the best case scenario, I was for sure I self-diagnosed a scratched cornea…
  • It felt immediately better, and is a little dry now, but I have no major discomfort any longer. I’m back to normal. And once again I can appreciate my eyesight (as bad as it is). I can blink.

It’s sad that we can only appreciate the most mundane things until it’s been taken away. I wish this were not the case, but that’s just the way things are. It will never change.

I don’t know if I’m building towards a moral or a point here, but let me follow-up with what happened next. I went to the store to pick up a prescription for eye drops to help prevent infection. I was told it would be 20 minutes, it turned into 45. Great. On my way out of the store and back to my car, I found a wallet. Literally right next to my car door.

I’m not one who believes in karma or fate, but I do appreciate when events like this happen probability-wise. I have never found a wallet before, so all of the crap that just happened led to this moment.

No, I’m not talking about keeping the wallet (I returned it)! I’m taking about the prospect of everything that happened in my no-good-very-bad day had to happen in that exact order (or if you want to get technical, everything that’s happened since inception of the universe, but that’s too deep) for me to be in a position to find this wallet and return it to the lady who lost it, most likely saving her hours and hours of grief.

Would some other person have returned the wallet? Possibly. But it was me. I found it. My pain, my circumstance put me in a position to help another person. I had lost a wallet as a child. I loved this particular wallet. I remember I had $40 in it (I think I was saving up for some baseball cards). However, I lost it at the mall; I must have left it at a store. No one ever returned it. $40 was the world to me… I was crushed…(honestly, this is probably one of the seeds that has made me so untrusting, paranoid, and conservative…but I digress…). This $40 would not be replaced, it was gone. I still associate the song, “The Boys of Summer” with this experience (it was the song that played on the radio after I lost my wallet…).

So, it was me who found this wallet. I had gone through this before, and was not going to let this loss ruin someone’s day; make them spend Christmas time cancelling credit cards and dealing with the DMV. I find the probability of all of this happening this way…astounding.

Take away? Appreciate what you have. You shouldn’t exist. 

Another one? What’s the point of being a dick? Do the right thing. You’ve got one chance at life, might as well give it your best shot. 

One more? Don’t blow into Christmas tree stands, there might be sawdust in it.

And now consider that the very fact that you reading this has now altered the course of your history. If you ever have a child from now on, I just changed who was going to be born. Sorry in advance!

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