Go, get set, ready?
In real races, you can get ready, set, before going.
In the game of life, however, it’s reversed. You must go before you are set or ready. It’s called birth. You are literally protected for nine months or so before being thrown into the world, totally unprepared. You depend on others. If they love and care for you, you are given a good start in the race. If not, you spend time trying to catch up. Sometimes you never catch up.
You would think this obvious description of how every human being begins life would open up insights into who and what we are as a species, but it’s one of those simple truths easy to overlook.
So what does this inauspicious beginning for every human being tell us about what it means to be a person?
First, we are literally tossed into life before we’ve had a chance to figure out what it’s all about. We begin dependent on others, frail, anxious, grasping, yelling. Philosophers who are existentialists say this describes the human condition, the primary situation in which each human starts out.
Second, we often yearn to go back to that safe place from which we came. Some people never get beyond this primal need. Others begin to grow, learn that they can be both dependent and independent, venturing out of the cocoon to risk flight. This is called growing up.
Life becomes a balancing act on a tightrope, learning how to walk, and when to hold on or to let go, hoping there is a net below.
Perhaps if we really understood and felt this truth of how every human being begins life, we would learn to have compassion for one another, realizing how tenuous our lives are and how we are dependent on one another in this strange journey of life.