‘To be, or not to be?’ – Hamlet
Congratulations – you have completed a journey of incalculable odds. You have competed with billions to earn your spot, somehow you are the one you have pulled through and got yourself a ticket. The luck you you have encountered along the way is unfathomable. But you have been given given the opportunity to play a wonderful game – the manner in which you want to play is up to you. How much luck have you had along the way?
Earth is a lucky planet
The big bang occurred 14 billion years ago. Physics was the first thing born in the universe which comprised of multiple forces and these laws of physics were all ‘just right’. The cosmological constant ensures the right expansion of the universe, the strong and weak nuclear force keep the atoms in check and gravity lets us stand on the Earth and orbit the sun. These are just a thin slice of the many laws that allowed for the creation of the universe. Examples of this fine tuning occur with almost all of the laws of physics. One of the other additional laws of physics that was precise, was the weight of the neutron that allowed for the birth of chemistry. If a neutron was 0.1% heavier, for example then the whole universe would be made of hydrogen. Gravity eventually attracted large clumps of hydrogen to form the stars, which decayed into helium giving off extraordinary amounts of heat. The star would live billions of years before it would finally use up all of it’s energy in a massive explosion called a ‘Supernova’. The death of the star would give rise to new stars – our sun, for example is a second generation star born 4.6 billions years ago.. These explosions of old stars shot asteroids through space – then gravity attracted them together to progressively make bigger and bigger clumps of rock and some kept moving through space and gravity attracted them to make small balls. Billions of chance encounters of rocks met each other, slowly forming the Earth and other planets which begun to follow well defined orbits of the Sun, the center of the solar system.
If the laws of physics were just slightly different, nothing in the universe would have been able to exist. At the early stages of the formation of the solar system, what we know today as Earth could just as easily been swallowed up by the sun or ended up a moon of one of the Jupiter. In any case, lucky Earth, it happened, and what followed was the chance encounters that allowed for the creation of life.
We are a lucky species
Abiogenesis is a term which describes how life arises from non living matter. The formation of DNA is unbelievably unlikely – as far as scientists can tell, only DNA can reproduce DNA. Two well known sciences attempted the probability of DNA forming by natural processes, they came up with less than 10 ^ 40,000 – in other words nearly impossible. Certain building blocks came together in a perfect cocktail comprising of amino acids, chemicals, carbohydrates and DNA producing primitive life forms, which are predicted to be about 4.28 billion years old. The history of life was mainly microbial until about 580 million years ago, when a rapid diversification of life occurred. Since this early period, over 99% of species that have walked the Earth have become extinct. This is not depressing, it is a common theme over the history of everything, where the death of one phenomena paves the road for new life forms. For example, there has been a total of five mass extinctions on planet Earth, each allowing a new set of life forms to become dominant on the planet. The species you and I belong to, Homo Sapiens did not emerge until 200,000 years ago. We Homo Sapiens came much closer to extinction than many realise. In a previous ice age, about 75,000 years ago – Lake Tober in Indonesia erupted spitting out volcanic ash around the Earth, lowering the degrees by an additional two degrees to the already harsh climate bringing humans very close to becoming part of the extinct 99%. Many scientists argue that there were only 2000 homo sapiens left on Earth! Not long after this eruption and near death experience, homo sapiens somehow broke away from the pack via a mutation that allowed us to think and communicate in unprecedented ways and give us a unique advantage over other animals. A monkey can yell to its comrades , ‘ careful a lion’! But we can tell another human that this morning, near the bend in the river, she saw a lion tracking a heard of gazelle. Our most unique ability to transmit information wasn’t about a lion, but more about the things that don’t even exist at all legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with what Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens calls the cognitive revolution. We quickly rose to the top of the food chain and developed new techniques of sourcing our food and agriculture was developed independently across many civilizations around the world. This new method of food production required a whole new approach to thinking. Whereas hunter gatherer societies could live day to day, all of a sudden we needed to plan for the future by storing food for rainy days. We also had to gather experience from the past to determine what crop will be most productive.
If one asteroid, flying around empty space was tugged by another planet just in a slightly different direction, then one of the 6 mass extinctions may not have occurred. It could have easily been the Tyrannosaurus Rex, typing on this computer trying to convince his fellow species how lucky they are. If the mutation that allowed for humans to communicate did not occur, we would still be somewhere along the middle of the food chain competing with our ape ancestors for game. In any case, lucky Humans, it happened, and what followed was the chance encounters that allowed for the creation of you.
You are a lucky human
Humans became the top dog of the planet. Like all of our other fellow species, most of our time was devoted primarily to hunting and having sex to ensure our species remained. As a human penis ejaculates, there are approximately 500 million sperm that start a unique race through the to the finish line. To put into context, one of your ancestors started this race against a population that is greater than the entire United States – you swam strong and got to the finish line first and dove inside the coveted egg. This process repeated upon thousands of thousands of times, one day it was your turn to journey on this race. You succeeded to the finish line and entered your mothers vagina, a dismal 0.05mm in length. Your mother did a great job carrying you around as you soaked in the nutrients required to grow into a baby. As a baby you entered the world on an obscure fraction of the Earth. You were also born on an extremely lucky part of this rock, being granted the gift of education to read and enough wealth for food, shelter and discretionary spending to buy items to let you read this article. In 2017, in South Sudan there was about 6.9 million children suffering from Malnutrition, hundreds of thousands of people died to war and 600,000 people had to flea their homeland in Myanmar. You were not only born on a unique location on the rock, but also a very special time in history. For thousands of your generations, your ancestors experienced very little to know change between generations. To be alive in 2018 is extremely unique – the yearly change today is more or less equal to a century 500 years ago! . Kevin Kelly in his book ‘The Inevitable’ suggests that most of the great products running the lives of citizens in 2050 are not around today. Most of the greybeards will be saying “Can you imagine how awesome it would be to be an innovator in back then? It was a wide open frontier!” .
Perhaps if your father or any of your ancestors were a little more shy and preferred to not show premature tendencies by deciding to change positions prior to ejaculation – one of the thousands on your family tree would not have ran this race. In any case, lucky you, it has been a long journey – but you made it.
You entered the world on the back of winning the lottery millions of times – having the infinite potential of a new born. If you go into a kindergarten and ask who can sing – you can expect everybody in the classroom to put their hand up, when you are young, there is no reason to think otherwise. In this young and unconditioned, we have all of the possibilities imaginable, Matthew Michaelwicz in ‘Life in Half a Second’ calls it the dreambox. As a kid, you look in the dreambox every day and the future excites you, you can be anything you wish!
As we grow, seems to be new forces at play, as we put our hand up to answer a question and find out we are wrong. We quickly learn, better not put my hand up – subconsciously we are taught to live a safe existence without pissing anyone off. A similar thing happens when you put a lid on top of a jar that contains fleas. The fleas at the start expend energy and keep trying to exit the container, but to no avail as they come crashing with the roof right over their heads. When you move the lid, it is a little too late, as the flea has already programmed itself to not jump too high. Our lid inevitably appears in adolescence and all that infinite potential is contained – you are told to live a reasonable safe life. If you aren’t careful, you can follow the crowd and release your initiative and power, drip by drip to be the function of another’s choices. As we give away our power, the lid slowly closes in and the negative feedback loop is able to repeat itself. Before you know it, you are boxed in and all the possibilities and potential collapses into a well defined and predictable and reasonable career path. But this doesn’t happen to everyone, thank god, the miracle of life doesn’t necessarily have to stop after child birth. If you think of someone you admire, they are likely to be living an extraordinary life and the power to have a significant impact on the things they care about. Have a think of that person, and your objective similarities.
- Same software. You are part of the same species and assuming there is no significant damage, you share similar cognitive and physical capabilities
- Same hand. Despite what you might hear from talk back radio, you were both born with an extraordinarily lucky hand. The millions of lottery wins aside, this is as true as ever today, with the access to information between the upper and lower classes in developed countries being negligible
- Time in the week. You have 604,800 seconds in the week, so does your idol. You most likely just think and act differently with the time you are allocated.
On one end of the spectrum you have people like Elon Musk, on the brink of saving the planet, but then you have other people like Susie. Susie is a ‘poor old’ lady I recently heard calling up Neil Mitchell, a talk back radio show in Melbourne, crying her eyes out due to the cost of a speeding fine. The government are cheats she thinks, she worked hard her whole life to earn this money and now they are just taking it away. Grow up Susie – you old pathetic little bitch. You are standing on the top of infinity of life, on a planet lucky enough to harbour life, in a location lucky enough to not experience hunger or real terror and what do you do this it? You choose to live a tragedy. The stories we tell ourselves will determine the trajectory and quality of our lives. So there you are, standing on the top of near infinity, under the self imposed jar and limitations of life. We all have a self imposed lid on top of our heads. Research shows that most success is more closely related with courage than it is success. This makes intellectual sense, it won’t take intelligence to figure out how to launch out of the self imposed limits, but serious balls to launch out and land in a new area. Where do you land when you launch out of the jar? For the purposes of this article, we are using the analogy of the arena.
So should you jump and launch into a new way of thinking? Should you let the miracle of life stop, or should you go through the pain it takes to make something extraordinary with your life. When jump out of your self imposed jar and land in the arena, it may feel like you are in the middle of a cold stadium naked, with people pointing and laughing at your exposed genitals. Why would you bother going through this self imposed pain? Isn’t it better to just remain in the jar and be a little bitch?
Symptoms of the little bitch
- Conforming to the status quo
- Blaming others for your position
- Complaining about luck
- Looking forward to the weekend to party
- Looking forward to retirement to relax
- Education ended after high school or university
Without the exercise of any proactivity, the path of the little bitch is the one taken by most. The path is governed by as much certainty as possible, the reptilian brain we evolved over millions of years suggests that anything unknown is too scary. Across cultures and across millennia, human beings have developed the ability to develop mythology to pass onto the following generations. The mythologies contain boundless wisdom, and in a somewhat spooky way, they also contain a lot of similarities across independent civilisations. Joseph Campbell in ‘A Hero With A Thousand Faces’ explores the heroes journey, a certain type of story that has made its way into religion, mythology and even popular culture in movies like Starwars. The journey is into the unknown, where the hero faces fabulous forces and finally a decisive victory is one – where the hero can come back from the mysterious adventure with well earned gifts to share with her fellow humans. Campbell argues that the call for the hero to take on the adventure, to take on challenges and acquire special gifts is embedded deep into the collective psyche.
This is the journey we are calling you to take in Swing; and to avoid the non journey of the little bitch. On the lesser desirable journey, you decide to sit on the sidelines and choose to carry a load of armour – so you can really cover up who you are deep down. Brene Brown in ‘Daring Greatly’ suggests that the willingness to take off the armour and engage in our vulnerability determines our depth of courage and clarity of purpose – the level at which we protect ourselves is a measure of our fear and disconnection.
Man in the arena or the little bitch? From the perspective of the end in mind.
It is a hard decision, to do or not to do. On the surface It might seem much more desirable to live life ‘to the full in the present’ and avoid to take on any responsibility at all. The heroes journey is not for everyone, but it certainly is for the people who want to have a swing – and that is our assumption about you in this book. If there is any doubt, read the following section, if there is no doubt, finish the article now. This exercise isn’t for the feint hearted, it really messed with my mind for a few months when it was introduced to me. For the exercise, close your eyes and pause for 15 seconds after each section. You can expect fear and pain for the short term, but at the same time it can bring about one of the most powerful experiences of your life.
- As you walk through an unknown, lush and beautiful landscape, something besides a big beautiful tree draws you to it. As you move closer and closer, you notice a body, lying inanimate on the ground. You pick up a stick, walk over and prod it to turn it over. Immediately you recognise it is your dead body! It has been a few days since the death of the body. You notice that the corpse is a little swollen and blue, with oozing puss that is discharging out of the nostrils and mouth.
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
- You return a few weeks later and notice that your body has become the fuel for other animals. The body is being devoured by crows, hawks, vultures and worms
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
2. You return to the body after a month. The corpse is now a fleshless skeleton, held together with a few tendons
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
3. The next time you arrive, the body is a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, held together by tendons
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
4. After a few more months you return and there are bones scattered in all directions. In one spot there is a hand, in another the toe and a bit further out is a skull
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
5. After a longer period, you return to see the corpse reduced to bones, bleached white.
Pause and visualise, 15 seconds
6. After a few years you return again. The bones are rotted and somewhat crumbled to dust.
Why the hell would you go through the pain of such an exercise, reminding yourself that you will die? Why envisage the decomposition of your own body? You may think this is a pointless exercise, but what tends to happen is that awareness of death can dispel the myth we falsely tell ourselves, that we will live forever. Something similar, is going to happen one day isn’t it? Death awareness is really about living. It is realising that every moment counts and what we do with our time is important.
If you had the stomach to do that exercise properly then from here you can do one of two things.
- You can deeply realize that you are going to one day have one last breath. OR..
- You can remain ignorant to it.. Until you are on your final breaths
What option, would the future you, on his final day wish you chose? You have been given an extraordinary gift, now for the choice, do you want to be a little bitch, or to be a man in the arena?