The Examined Life

The millions of sperm that were racing toward the egg as the frantic game of chance that would eventually be called “Jane” was happening. It was scary how close some sperm (an entirely different set of possibilities for future Jane) got, but failed, leaving one lucky little fragment of chromosome to fertilize the egg. Jane was conceived.

Her mother, Dora, was a healthy black woman. She had won the genetic gene pool lottery with her own set of incredible fortunes. Dora was smart, pretty, tall, slim, she had straight white teeth and a strong immune system. Her husband, Rodger, was an affable white male (also a winner of the gene pool) with a full head of hair, a deep voice, and broad shoulders. Both parents were wealthy and both lived in a first world country. Jane was not even born yet and through the unbelievably small routes of the endless possibilities, she beat out the other possible “Janes” or, even, “Joes” that could have been born to Dora and Rodger and quickly, and with healthy progress, grew in the womb.

Dora gave birth with little complications as she was in a hospital with well trained nurses and attentive doctors. Given all the possibilities of birth defects, the 1 out of every 100,000 births that could be disaster for some reason or another, the slip of a shaking hand to cause brain damage, the danger of an umbilical cord; Jane was born beautiful, a healthy weight of 7 pounds 6 ounces.

Jane grew up in a healthy family environment. Dora was attentive, Rodger was supportive and thoughtful. The schools in their first world were good and cheap and Jane was sent to learn without the fear of war or starvation. As Jane learned about her world she took for granted the amazing luck that dictated her a member of the elite 20% of humans on the planet who live above the poverty line, and in the top 15% of humans who live in a first world country. She read about the people in poor countries who starved, died of malnutrition, died in conflict, died due to curable diseases, and suffered daily due to a lack of clean water. Jane had no concept of what that felt like. She never knew what it meant to be really hungry or really scared; she had hot food every day, and clean sheets to sleep in.

As Jane grew into an attractive, healthy, smart, young woman she began, with impunity, to learn all the subjects she wanted to learn about. She studied philosophy, art, music, and writing. Because of the time in history she was born in she was not ridiculed or scorned for being half white or being a woman. Jane’s good grades and supportive parents got her into a university that was well respected.

Indeed, as Jane got older, her possibilities seemed only to expand. She was good at everything she put her mind to. Jane’s skills were strong and she graduated with top marks, landing her a job with a well respected company.

Every day, as she commuted via a well groomed public transportation system, Jane unconsciously avoided the endless deaths that could have killed her at any minute. The small miracle of crossing the street to her job, the police who stalked the streets for mad gunmen, the planes that didn’t crash on to her, even the meteor that missed earth by hundreds of thousands of miles, all gave Jane another day to live as a well fed, educated, employed, single woman.

Jane had many interests. She loved going to concerts and watching her favorite band play. She enjoyed art openings, and loved museums. In her free time, Jane would volunteer for a weekend or two, to watch the children of poor families as they parents went to trade school. As time went on, incalculable possibilities added up as well. The odds that Jane would run into Tom while walking the child she was watching across the street were staggering. Tom didn’t mean to be on that street, he was lost, and when he ran into Jane he was embarrassed and in a momentary lack of ego, asked directions to the building he needed that was no where near where he needed to be.

Tom was his own set of miracles. Born in a third world country in Africa, Tom’s parents had struggled their whole lives to bring Tom into a place of health and security. Tom was born small, a tiny baby of 5 pounds 7 ounces due to his mother’s lack of nutrition and food. The country Tom’s family lived in was being torn apart by civil war and every day from day one was a struggle for him and his family. The odds of his mother being raped her high, his father being killed were higher, and Tom and his four sisters worked hard to make life bearable. Because Tom had the luck of being born male, he was able to apply for a visa to the first world that he now found himself in. Tom used every resource to get himself away from the embittered battle that his country was floundering in and get himself to the nirvana that was where he was so he could raise enough money to bring the rest of his family over.

Tom wasn’t hit by a bus on his way over to that street he was lost on, Tom wasn’t struck dead by a brain aneurism, Tom knew english due to an incredible amount of luck when he first got to the new country and met a volunteer teacher who agreed to help him learn. Tom had even taken a shower that morning (which he didn’t normally do) and smelled great because he had a job interview to go to.

When Jane bumped into Tom she was startled by him. Jane was 26, and had dated many men. She spent long periods of time talking about men, she wrote journals about the man she wanted to end up with. And when her bag fell on the floor as she knocked into Tom while, in a strange set of circumstantial possibilities they were both looking in the opposite direction as they collided, she realized she had met someone special.

Across the city, this kind of circumstantial meeting was happening at different times and for different people. In a library, a mile away, strangers Kim and Joey met and began a life long relationship. Stacy and Lilly met in a line for a coffee and wound up becoming best friends. Bill and Kip met while sitting on the public transportation and were lovers that night. All these meetings, culminating in a relationship with a stranger, were the result of so many chances, so many infinite possibilities that could have failed, but didn’t.

Jane, 15 years later, reflected on how amazingly lucky she felt to have had the fortune of all of life’s chances in her favor. The odds of meeting Tom, her husband, to have lived as long as she had, to have the job she worked hard in, and the opportunities that felt like luck. It all seemed so magical that even in the momentary lapses of her life where she wondered what her purpose was and how she could really make herself and others happy, she remembered just how slim the odds were that she even existed, when decades prior, her entire existence was left to the race of a sperm fertilizing an egg. Life was incredible, and just as delicate. Perhaps the only reason it exists at all is due to unbelievable odds. Jane examined her sleeping son, Dan, and smiled at the thought that her life seemed so blessed.

October 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm by Natalie Allen