The following is an excerpt of lyrics from the song The Greatest Show On Earth, the last of the track list from the album Endless Forms Most Beautiful courtesy of the exceedingly talented Finnish band, Nightwish.

“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 Sahara.

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 those stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds,
how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state
from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

Song written by Marco Hietala & Tuomas Holopainen. Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

The sentiments echoed by these powerful words point to one simple fact, that we, all of us, regardless of what we may be going through presently, are indeed fortunate to have even been birthed into existence in the first place. We may complain every now and then about circumstances or situations that, for most things and often in hindsight, turn out to be rather trivial matters but consider the unsettling alternative for a moment.

The possibility that each of us, no matter the current state of our lives, may never have been born to become who we are now in the first place was incredibly high. Astronomically so. A skilled mathematician could probably postulate a number or a percentage to validate this claim no doubt. And yet here we all are.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be here, right now, as my thoughts circulate in my mind to write this. It is disturbing to contemplate that had even a few things in my mother’s past occurred even just a little bit differently, then the life I have now and the person I am today would never have existed. Someone else could have taken my place. Another person with another life, for better or for worse, for the state of that ghosts life can never be known.

They are simply they that never were and will never be.

That person who had the potential to exist but does not. It is equally probable that no variation of me may have ever existed. These thoughts are both troubling and fascinating in equal measure. Such debates have their place in both science and spirituality but I suppose I am simply grateful that I turned out to be someone who is even capable of contemplating such thoughts. You never know, another me may not have ever even bothered to listen to Nightwish in the first place! I shudder at the prospect.

Forged From Reverie.

26 Comments on “Of Unborn Ghosts

  1. There’s an episode of Red Dwarf where the characters are erased and replaced with alternative versions – the unfertilized eggs and sperms that never made it. Sobering stuff, mate.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very interesting food for thought! I will be keeping this in mind from this point forward. 🙂 It really is crazy when you take the time to think about it like that. Thanks for sharing! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Stuart, you are a mind after my own heart. Or mind…ermm…
    I often think about topics similar, and freak myself out in the process, though it is a good kind of freak out. I cannot imagine having a mind other than the one I’ve got–and I wouldn’t want another!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Those lyrics need to be placed in plain sight (on my cubicle wall, on the fridge, etc.) as a frequent reminder of how fortunate we are. I saw Nightwish play several years ago – such an emotional experience. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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