Reasons To Be Cheerful

20/12/2012 15:24 GMT | Updated 18/02/2013 10:12 GMT

I don't wish to be alarmist - are you sitting down? - but on the 21st December, we're all going to be abruptly vaporised. Or at least, we're going to wake up with mild hangovers, and fail to enjoy the rest of the day. The Mayan Calendar, source of these distressing rumours, is a little lax on detail.

If the worst does come to the worst, and it's Armageddon time, then just think of all that Christmas shopping gone to waste, in a time of austerity too. And all we've had on TV to cheer us up is Big Brother and The X-Factor. It would be so easy to be depressed.

Yet consider. Let's, as they say, look at the big picture. Life can seem bleak - until you consider the alternative. And really, it's worthwhile stopping to ponder just how fortunate we are to be here at all.

Leave aside for the moment the incredible miracle of having a habitable planet to live on, which as far as we know exists nowhere else in the whole of creation (as I write, and subject to any revelations NASA may be about to make from their current Mars Rover).

The thing is, even given our temperate and nurturing planet, it's still vanishingly improbable that you should be alive today and able to read this. Anyone who knows enough about the birds and the bees will be aware of the myriad possible ways genes can combine to create a living organism.

Each of us has to be thankful for our own unique existence; that our parents met when they did, and that they then followed a course of actions leading up to just the right place, time, and romantic situation for our life's journey to begin.

And behind our parents, on both sides and stretching back generations without number, the same miracle had to occur, and keep occurring. Any stumble off that chance-studded path of destiny, at any time over thousands of years, and we just wouldn't be around.

This is the massive lottery we have all won - in fact if you calculated the odds of a lottery win next Saturday, with one to follow it the Wednesday after, and maybe a pools win and a tax rebate the following week, you'd still be way, way short of the odds you've had to beat, just to be alive right now.

And not only ARE you here, you lucky thing - you're a human being instead of, say, a fruit fly. What are the odds on that? Have you any idea of the factor by which insects out-number humans? You could so easily have been a wasp.

What's more, not only are you a human being, you also live in a time of relative peace and prosperity. How many of the hundred billion people who have ever existed wouldn't give their eye-teeth to swap places with us, with our mains water and services, our electric light and labour-saving devices, and our information super-highway?

We might instead have emerged in the 12th century, digging privies for the feudal Lord, or for a brief and consumptive existence in the typhoid slums of 19th century London. Are you cheering up yet?

On the whole, we don't have it so bad, and as we've seen, there is good cause for all of us to be extremely grateful we're here at all. And that makes even Big Brother seem a little easier to live with.

But if those ancient predictions ARE right and we're all plunged into oblivion two shopping days short of Christmas, then at least we'll have been spared the January sales.

Every cloud...