The Humans

I have just finished reading The Humans by Matt Haig. It was recommended reading for Greenbelt 2014’s reading club. However, I did not read it before Greenbelt, which I now think is a shame because I would have enjoyed discussing it.

This quote was one that I found particularly interesting, especially so that I read it shortly before church this morning.

‘I looked at Isobel and I saw a miracle. It was ridiculous, I know. But a human, in it’s own small way, was a miraculous achievement, in mathematical terms.

‘For a start, it wasn’t very likely that Isobel’s mother and father would have met. And even if they had met the chance of their having a baby would have been pretty slim, given the numerous agonies surrounding the human dating process.

‘Her mother would have had about a hundred thousand eggs ovulating inside her, and her father would have had five trillion sperm during that same length of time. But even then, even that one in five hundred million million chance of existing was a terrible understatement, and nowhere near did the coincidence of a human life justice.

‘You see, when you looked at a human’s face, you had to comprehend the luck that brought that person there. Isobel Martin had a total of 150,000 generations before her, and that only includes the human. That was 150,000 increasingly unlikely children. That was one in a quadrillion chance multiplied by another quadrillion for every generation. Or around twenty thousand times more than the number of the atoms in the universe. But even that was only the start of it, because humans had only been around for three millions Earth years, certainly a very short time compared to the three and a half billion years since life first appeared on this planet.

‘Therefore, mathematically, rounding things up, there was no chance at all that Isobel Martin could have existed. A zero in ten to-the-power-of-forever chance. And yet, there she was, in front of me, and I was quite taken aback by it all; I really was. Suddenly it made me realise why religion was such a big thing around here. Because, yes, sure, God could not exist. But then neither could humans. So, if they believed in themselves – the logic must go – why not believe in something that was only a fraction more unlikely?’

The sermon, talking about opening our church to more people, about the idea that when you welcomed people in they weren’t always going to be ‘your kinda people’, the idea that being Christ-like meant talking to, showing compassion to and loving sinners. The idea that gay people deserved hell meant that you had forgotten that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’.

The idea that some people are too far away to ever be loved.

And then I thought back to the words of an alien stuck on the planet Earth. There was no chance that Isobel Martin, or me, or anyone could exist. We are impossible, incredible, each one of us, a miracle. Statistically unlikely and yet, here we are.

And we spend time making other people feel worthless, making other people feel like they have no place in this world. They have overcome insurmountable odds to get to this point and yet feel like they don’t deserve to be here.

When we see a human, shouldn’t we be more amazed that they are alive and being? Where ever they currently are, it is a miracle that they are. And if we can support them in continuing to be then we are part of a miracle but if something we say or do hinders them, then we are destroying millions of years of energy and work and time and miracles.


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