It’s generally accepted that we – our species, the modern Homo sapiens – have been around for about 50,000 years. In that time roughly 108 billion people have lived. Approximately 8 billion of us are at it at the moment.
And you’d have thought (wouldn’t you?) with such impressive numbers on our side that we’d have figured out our shit by now. That more of us might have, at least.
That out of those 108 billion souls to have graced this earth, more of us would be wiser, kinder, more honest, more authentic, more integrated, and therefore freer from our inner struggles (not to mention the outer struggles that play daily on the news and internet, which are, after all, just the external manifestations of the inner).
But not so.
Out of the 108 billion people to have queued up at life’s free-throw line and had a go at throwing the basketball into the net, how many can claim success?
And by success I don’t necessarily mean the material kind. I don’t necessarily don’t mean it either, by the way. But the success I’m talking about here is the kind that gives a resounding “Yes!” in response to the eternal, Socratic, questions, “Has my life been well-lived; have I recognised my weird and shitty habits; and have I done something about them to make my time here, and with those I love, better?”
How many of us can say “Yes”? How many have figuratively dunked the basketball?
Because if we, all 108 billion of us, are a squad, and the game’s been going for 50,000 years, then I have a feeling our Head Coach is watching on in despair as most of his players step up to the line one after the other, so obviously trapped and distracted in the repetitive cycles of their inner commotion that they mindlessly smash the ball straight into their own nuts let alone anywhere near the net.
And the most frustrating part for Coach must be that so many of his nut-smashers are either so unaware or in such denial that they maintain that smashing the ball square into their trouser rockets or sacred pockets was the point.
But not so.
We, each of us, have the opportunity to throw the ball unimpeded, unopposed, into the net. Again, the goal here isn’t fortune or fame or their many-faced offspring. Of course, we all have essential material needs and desires, but these, again, aren’t what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the simple pre-conditions of a conscious, purposeful life which each and every one of us has within us already. I’m talking about living in relation to others and oneself in a way that sees us continuously becoming who we really are rather than running forever further from who we really are until who we really are is a mere distant remnant, a shrunken homunculus, an abandoned child stuck behind the walls of our innermost refuge, left to spend its life alone while we run off chasing false prizes, wondering why none of it ever feels quite as advertised.
And meanwhile, the real prize, the unimpeded basketball net, was there all along and we always already had everything needed to take and make the shot.
Honesty, kindness, wisdom, courage, intuition, love. We don’t need to win or earn these. We don’t need to go and get them from anywhere. They’re free. They are the free throw.
We all know this. Deep down we all know it. I’m convinced of that. Almost all of us need help at least once in our lives (or more) in remembering or re-discovering these essential qualities within us. Because we forget or we get lost, we become afraid, prideful, distracted by glitz or glamour or the need to be adored or just accepted. But simply recognising the state of one’s affairs, being truthful, perhaps for the very first time, is the beginning of a corrected course of travel that, if faithfully followed, leads us back home to the refuge, back to who we really are.
And that, just that, is what it is to make the shot.
108 billion free throws across 50,000 years. Those are pretty good odds for making just one.