This stark view of life and death is striking in its beauty and imagery as well poetic in language and should remind us how grateful we must be that we have existed at all. I’ve never been a fan of Richard Dawkins, an uncompromising atheist and tireless advocate of science yet he still has a sense of wonder and appreciation of life evidenced by this beautiful piece of writing opening his book, Unweaving the Rainbow. Admittedly, Dawkins has a polarising effect on people but maybe it’s time to reconsider my own view on this eminent British scientist.
My photo from the Chelsea Flower Show 2017 depicting the winning garden by James Basson featuring overgrown wild plants around limestone blocks using as inspiration a disused quarry in Malta. I chose it for this article because it reminded me of a graveyard but a beautiful and peaceful setting nonetheless.
Extract from Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
On a lighter note but in a similar vein, a century earlier another atheist, Mark Twain offered this, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
Without doubt, I am beyond grateful for my life and my family but we all need occasional reminding just how lucky we are and words such as these from a great scientist help prod us out of complacency.