You’re a freak
When you were conceived, you were the product of a unique combination of sperm and egg. If any other sperm had won the race, if any other egg had been released, you wouldn’t have been the same person. Effectively, you – the person reading this now – wouldn’t exist.
A man produces about 400 billion sperm in a lifetime, and a woman 400 eggs. Speaking very roughly, that means you’re a 1 in 160 trillion chance. That’s about as likely as winning the UK’s National Lottery on both of the next two weeks, and barely scratches the surface of the possible genetic combinations that could have formed you. See how special you are?
But there’s more. Your parents were just as unlikely – let’s call them 1 in 160 trillion chances as well. Both of them. And if they hadn’t existed, neither would you. Even without trying to guess how likely it was that they met each other, that makes your existence a 1 in 4 octillion chance. That’s 4 followed by 27 zeroes, equivalent to winning the lottery in each of the next 6 weeks.
And your grandparents – more 1 in 160 trillion chances. By this point, bare numbers start to lose their meaning, but imagine winning the lottery in each of the next 14 weeks. Is that unlikely enough for you?
Imagine for just a moment how anyone would be treated if they won the lottery even 2 or 3 times in a row, let alone 14. At what point would envy and amazement turn into accusations of cheating? Go back another couple of generations, and you’re looking at an entire year of winning the lottery every week. But that’s just the start.
If you start just 10 generations back, the chances of you existing from that point are equivalent to winning the lottery every week of your life. Every single week. That’s a conservative estimate, only considering conception, and going back no more than about 300 years. Imagine how that adds up over thousands, millions of years. And however far back you go, there’s always a generation before which you haven’t considered.
See? We’re all freaks. We’ve overcome mindboggling odds just to exist. Yet here we are. I most definitely exist, and solipsism aside, so do you. Someone had to win our respective multi-lotteries, and we were the lucky ones. But if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here to worry about how unlikely our existence is.
So don’t worry, but celebrate. Just by being able to read this, you’re a big winner in the lottery of life. After all that, it would be a tragic waste not to make the most of it.