Sometimes I catch myself merely living because I don’t have anything better to do. I wake up from a long slumber and realize that a year of my life just went by. I think about what I did in that year. Then my mind wanders. I think about life.

When some of Earth’s organic molecules first came together to form nucleic acids some four billion years ago, a sequence of events that would affect me rather significantly was set in motion. I’m talking, of course, about natural selection.

The first microbes evolved into cells, the cells into amoebas, the amoebas into multi-cellular organisms, they into plants and plant-like beings on the sea floor, these beings into fish, fish into amphibians, into reptiles, into rodents and other warm-blooded creatures, into ape-like ones, and, eventually, just a couple million years ago, they had evolved into humans. All we animals spread across the Earth, adding, in an inconceivable enormity of small but decisive events, to the tree of life that had set its first roots four thousand million years before.

Somewhere along that line, on a normal November day, I won the biggest game of dice. I swam fast on that day, just like my mother and father had before, and as the collective of their parents had, and as their parents’ parents, and as their parents, continuing down the line of crucial events all the way down to when the first human opened its eyes, and through every line in the history of each of all the species that came before us; through every minuscule genetic mutation; through everything that led to the creation of Earth itself: The expansion of the universe, the formation of galaxies, the creation and violent death of a billion billion stars, the chance creation of the Milky Way galaxy and, in that, our Solar System, and, finally, within that, the Earth. A very long process had simultaneously ended and begun anew. I was coming to life.

It is the most humbling and, at the same time, the most inspiring thing I can think of. Of all the humans who could ever have been, you are. You are here. You are alive. You had the greatest streak of luck. Instead of a thousand trillion other forms of life that could have been, you are. You are floating through a vast and magnificent universe on a small, blue marble with comparatively few, equally fortunate others.

You enjoy an instant of consciousness. Don’t waste it away.