Metro 33

By Richard Herring - 25th September, 2012

Richard Herring: The meaning of life is not to waste this 600m-to-one chance

As of today I have been alive for 16,505 days. And you didn't even send me a card.

Life is such a precious gift and we're here for so brief a time and I am ever conscious that I should be making more of it. I do seem to waste an awful lot of my allotted span playing Yahtzee on my iPhone. Though my high score is 702, so maybe I am being harsh on myself.

The chances of existence are astronomically small. In the ejaculation that created you there were up to 600million sperm, yet you beat those odds and made it to the egg first. Your numbers came up in the testicle lottery (oh, those spinning balls). You won the semen Marathon (one of Mars's less successful chocolate bars). Surely you owe it to those 600million unborn babies to live the fullest possible life!

And that's only the start of it. What if your mum and dad hadn't had sex the day you were conceived? What if they'd had an argument or your dad had had a crafty Barclays? You would have vanished into the ether. Slipped through the cracks of the universe.

Both sets of grandparents had to get together, stay together and procreate at the exact right moment; your mum and dad's sperm both had to beat 600million competitors. Your great-grandparents had to do the same. It goes on: ancestors cheating death, meeting the right person, having sex at the right time, the right sperm getting through, the odds multiplying exponentially.

You are at the bottom of this massive inverted pyramid of boffing, the right gamete getting through every time, an unbroken chain going right back to the first amoeba realising he couldn't stand living with himself any more and was going to find a place of his own.

Doesn't that make wasting even a second of one of your (maybe) 30,000 days seem like sacrilege?

Religious people, if you've got to make up an afterlife (there isn't one, obviously, grow up) then couldn't you create something that will make people live their lives better, rather than fill them with shame and fear?

Let's say that when you die, you go to a gigantic room full of the 600million babies who would have been born if their sperm had beaten yours to the egg. You have to go round each of them in turn detailing every single thing that you ever did and explain how you lived the fullest life possible. If they're happy, you get eternal bliss, if not you spend the rest of time locked in the room with 600million babies who never sleep, always need their nappies changing and won't stop crying.

If you knew that was coming up I think you'd pull your finger out, if only to avoid saying, 'Yes, I did spend every Sunday morning in the year 2012 watching the omnibus edition of Hollyoaks. Even though I was 45 at the time and it wasn't really aimed directly at me. And I had seen every episode in its original 6.30 evening showing. But I was enjoying the subtle variation of seeing the show signed for the deaf.'

The problem is that extremists would suggest a heaven with a second room, which is full of all the babies who would have been born if every sperm you'd produced or encountered had created a child. Then you have to explain to each of those babies in turn why it is they never even got the chance to live… And it's basically back to being a regular religion.

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