Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
May 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

‘So Far, I’m Immortal’

sven_davis2Thanksgiving is always a good time to take stock of your luck. At the table, many families take turns relating something to be grateful for. In such a shared setting, we usually talk about nice things in the world that we can all be thankful for: friends and family, roofs over our heads, California weather, Smartwool socks, anyone who makes the political landscape look less bleak or at least funny, the rise of the American microbrew.

This year, I felt thankful for something of a more selfish nature. I was thankful for being alive, because I recently realized the odds were against me. And I suspect that if you did the math, you would feel the same.

I started to appreciate the unlikelihood of being not only alive but generally unscathed after sharing some near-miss stories with friends over a pitcher or two. We could each think of at least two events in our lives in which we had about a 50 percent chance of survival. Illness, cliffs, cars, water and ice had variously attempted to snuff us out, and with the help of our waitress, we calculated the odds of any one of us surviving two mortal coin-tosses were one in four (yes, this is probably fourth grade math and we should be embarrassed we needed help, but the waitress had been in fourth grade more recently). Later she came back, calculator in hand, and pointed out that the odds of all four of us being around to tip her generously were under half a percent. Had it not been for all the beer, it  would have been sobering.

Maybe I’m just in a morbid frame of mind lately, but since then I’ve remembered other close calls, and though they weren’t in the 50-50 category, they add up. I worked for years with power tools, high ladders, live electricity, and nasty chemicals. I’ve gone beyond my abilities surfing, climbing, mountain biking, parachuting, and kayaking. I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles, many as a teenager. When the ’89 quake hit, rocks and dirt rained all around me from the ocean bluff I was sitting against, reading (note: the dog next to me provided no warning). With every close call, no matter how small, the odds just keep getting worse.

And yet I have all my extremities, both my eyes, and no major scars. Amazing, I’m thinking, and all that doesn’t even take into account what I can’t remember: early childhood. Toddlers are uncannily drawn to the most dangerous elements in their environment and somehow get away with it (“Get out of the oven, honey.”). According to Family Circus cartoons, it’s usually the ghost of Gramma saving them, but I like to think if Gramma were treated to an afterlife, she’d be lounging in a paradise of gin and swing music, not minding the kids again.

Heck, I could go back even farther—during the Cuban missile crisis, I was still in my mama’s belly. Kennedy later estimated the odds of that conflict triggering a nuclear war were one in three. So I was literally born lucky.

After that first conversation, my friends too have been recalling more instances where they managed to skate past life’s hazards. These memories seem to be buried in shallow graves in our subconscious; they can be found if you bother to look. To those who find this unsettling, I’m sorry, but I’m also somewhat relieved to see it’s not just me who can compute his odds of surviving intact at less than 20 percent.

Like most people, I get more risk-averse as I get older. I’ve always wondered what that was about, but now I think of it as an instinct to not press my luck. with every passing year, there’s more luck to press. If it’s statistically unlikely that I got this far, I’d hate to blow it now. I was thinking of going mushroom hunting for my birthday this week, but maybe not now.

Obviously, something isn’t adding up. If life were so dangerous, far fewer of us would be around long enough to complain about cell phones in bathrooms and kids these days. Sure, we all have peers who didn’t make it, who died tragically along the way. It seems amazing, though, that we haven’t lost more. So the way I see it, it can only be explained by luck, divine intervention, or a bad statistical analysis. The skeptic in me assumes it’s the math, but I’m disinclined to look too closely. I’m happy to believe that you don’t have to walk away from a plane crash to feel lucky to be alive. I only hope that after all this, when it’s time for me to go it’ll be due to some statistically improbable event, like getting hit by an asteroid. When you visit my grave, it’ll read: “Even in death, he beat the odds.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival