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accident

We are all accidents.

Women are typically born with somewhere between one and two million eggs. Only about 400 will mature at some point in her life, but it can be any 400 or so out of those one or two million million that do so. (See: http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/women-and-their-eggs-how-many-and-how-long) Each egg has half of the woman’s genes, but it is a different half in each egg. The genes that are in any one egg are pretty much a random selection from all of the genes on offer.

On average a healthy male will spurt out 40-million or more spermatozoa during each ejaculation. (See: http://www.sexhealthmatters.org/did-you-know/how-much-semen-is-produced-at-ejaculation) Each of those spermatozoa contains half of the ejaculator’s genes. Again, which half varies from spermatozoon to spermatozoon.

And that’s just the number of spermatozoa per ejaculation. A healthy male may ejaculate sperm into a fertile woman a great many times in his life. I dream about doing it a great many times in my life, with protection, of course, but to a first order of rounding it hardly qualifies as a great many times so far.

If, instead of the particular spermatozoon fertilizing the particular egg that resulted in you, you had resulted from a different sperm from among you’re father’s hundreds of millions of spermatozoa fertilizing the egg that created you; or if it hd been the same spermatozoa but it had been ejaculated in a different month and, therefore, fertilized a different egg from among you’re mother’s (or another woman’s) one to two million potential eggs (ignore the impossibility of the same spermatozoon coming out in a different month, let alone a different ejaculation; this is a thought exercise); or if it had been both a different spermatozoon and a different egg that created you then you’d have a different set of genes than what you do have and you’d be a different person.In that case, you would not be you.

And, the odds of you having become the you that you are are even slimmer if your parents fooled around a lot because other men’s sperm and other women’s eggs would enter into the equation.

Thus, as I said when I started this entry, we are all accidents.

Before you protest that you were planned and not an accident, allow me to counter your protest with the following: Whether or not your parents planned to try to conceive, a specific spermatozoon fertilizing a specific egg is a one in a great many billion chance. Thus, the fact that you are you and not somebody else defined by a different matching of genes is an incredible accident.

Why is that relevant when discussing the word accident? Well, apart from being an example of an astronomically unlikely accident, the accident of us being us has a deep, philosophical meaning. I’m having trouble articulating that meaning because I haven’t the foggiest of ideas as to what it might be, but I’m sure it’s there.

With that tedious little monologue out of the way, what is the definition of accident? An accident is an event that occurs by chance.

Often when we talk about an accident we are referring to something that has negative consequences, such as a car accident or a skiing accident, but there don’t have to be negative consequences to qualify as an accident. Take your birth, for example. Unless you turned out to be a depressive, a psychopath or a telemarketer, you likely don’t think of your birth as having had negative consequences. And, even if you did turn out to be a psychopath or telemarketer, you likely don’t think that your birth had negative consequences, but everyone else does.

On another train of thought, when young children who have not yet perfected their potty skills pee or defecate into their clothes, their parents will often say that the child “had an accident.” Why do they bother to say that? The kid knows what happened. Does he or she need to be reminded of it in front of other people? I don’t think so.

And onlookers will figure it out pretty quickly without being told. The telltale wet mark on the child’s pants and the smell of urine or the stench of crap generally makes it clear what happened. Nobody needs to hear about it. At least, that’s my opinion.

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