We Needn't Be A Dick
About 2 billion years ago there was a type of bacteria on the Earth’s surface, maybe in the oceans, maybe on land, I can’t remember. As in, I can’t remember what exactly they said on this thing I watched about it a few nights ago, rather than I can’t remember 2 billion years into the past. Which I also can’t.
But anyway, these bacteria, the single-celled little clever-clogs that they were, completely transformed the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. Sure, they took their time about it – about a billion years if my memory serves me (again, just to be clear, my memory from three nights ago) – but through the process of photosynthesis, they removed enough carbon dioxide from the air and replaced it with so much oxygen that the ozone layer was formed.
The formation of the ozone layer created the conditions for more complex life and from about 900 million years ago, if I remember correctly (can I really make the same gag three times?), the chain reaction of evolution had begun. And here I am now blogging about it in this invisible digital reality we now have at our fingertips along with music, films and poetry, flying rockets and neurosurgery, families and farming and love and dancing, philosophy, sport and politics, polished concrete and psychedelics, and, and, and… And it all started with these humble single-celled organisms a couple of billion years back.
They reckon each individual bacterium probably had a lifespan of about two weeks. In the context of the history of life on Earth, two weeks isn’t so much a blink of an eye as a single femto-flicker of the nerve that will fire up the blink. In the grand scheme of things really not much different from, say, 80 years, which is what we’ll clock up on average.
So, imagine this a moment.
Imagine being one of those bits of bacteria. There you are with all your mates in the splodgy bacteria habitat you all share, and you’re all doing the same thing, sucking on some carbon and farting out some oxygen, and you turn to one of your pals and you say, “What the fuck’s the point though?”
And she goes, “What d’you mean?”
And you go, “I mean all this. What’s the point? We come into existence, we live our lives – a fortnight if we’re lucky – and then we die, leaving the world exactly the same as when we were born.”
And she goes, “Well, not exactly the same.”
And you go, “Pretty much. It’s not like I’ve achieved anything of any real note. Nothing that anyone’s gonna remember. I haven’t done…anything, really. Other than just sit here and breathe with you lot.”
And she goes, “So what’s your point?”
And you go, “My point is, Janice, it feels completely meaningless. The whole thing. Life. I can’t see what the purpose is. What impact have I made? Sometimes I wonder if there was any point in being born.”
And Janice goes, “Now look here, Dick. From where I’m sitting, there is indeed a point but you’re missing it. Yes, your individual life might not seem particularly special or meaningful to you right now and actually if you hadn’t been born then the world probably would still be exactly the same—
“You sure know how to make a guy perk up again.”
“Steady on, Dick. Anyway, what I’m saying is the same could be said for pretty much all of us. But only if we think of ourselves as apart rather than a part.”
“How’d you mean?”
“I mean if we stop thinking so individualistically and begin thinking in terms of the collective then this shift in perspective will reveal we’re all entirely connected. Because when I say collective, I don’t just mean all of us who happen to be here now; I mean all of us who’ve come before and all of us to come. Everything and everyone. We’re all a part of a continuum. We’re an infinitely connected collective where everything depends on everyone.”
You consider this a moment and then you say, “Oh, piss off with your hippie bollocks, Janice, I’m off to play Xbox.”