On the Idea of a Perfect Life
I’m studying evolution* and natural selection right now in my biology class. As I may have mentioned before, it’s the first time that I’ve studied biology since high school, and it’s in conjunction with pre-nursing curriculum. As student of geology in undergrad, I am really finding this biology reboot to be interesting! In particular, the theory of natural selection appeals to my large-scale geologic interests, and ties in with the fossil record and other things with which I am familiar.
However, I also think that I can find a way to apply the idea of natural selection to an individual human life, at least metaphorically. Natural selection relies on the assumption that different individuals in a population are competing for limited resources, and that those with the best adaptions will survive to reproduce. They get these adaptions by sexual selection, genetic recombination, and random mutations in their genetic code. The idea is that we’re ALL different and that some of us are better suited for our environment. However, natural selection fails when a population has no limitations. When a population can spread without consequence, and does not need to compete for resources, though all the individuals are slightly different, natural selection does not have a chance to act on those that are most fit.
When populations are unlimited, there exists no external force to form them into the most well-adapted individuals they can be. Natural selection relies on the weakest individuals not living long enough to reproduce. When they all live, the weak individuals contribute to the genetic pool in the same percentage as the strong individuals.
Now I’m going to apply this to a human life. I believe that trials, tribulations, and limitations act on an individual person in a similar way that natural selection acts on a populations. These challenges and limitations cause us to develop into better, stronger, and smarter people. The common expression that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger seems quite apt to describe my thought process.
Let’s imagine for a moment what a perfect life might look like. Here are some things that we might all be able to agree upon: unlimited financial resources; no mandatory work; perfect and loving family and friends; freedom to act and travel as you please; perfect home; perfect neighborhood and community; perfect contentment. What would you do if you had everything you wanted? Maybe it might be nice for a little while, and I can’t argue that the idea is appealing because most of us are so far from perfect that it seems unattainable. However, more important than what you would do, I really wonder this: what would you become?
Without challenges and limitations to push you, would you stop developing? Without any reason to learn new things about the world, would you remain ignorant? Without any concern for your community, would you remain complacent? With a perfect home, would everything get dusty?
You see, even if an individual animal is perfectly adapted to its environment, the environment is always changing, and so the individual has two options: survive or die. The environment is never going to stop changing, and so even if your life seems perfect, it simply cannot remain that way. As Maroon 5 wrote in their new single Payphone, “The sun even sets in paradise.”
So, I would urge you to think more kindly upon your limitations and challenges, and consider them a gift rather than a curse. Everything that hits you gives you a lesson you can apply to your future, and everything that challenges you changes you. Don’t wish for a perfect life; not only would it be boring, it would also leave you defenseless in the face of change, which is inevitable.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment to let me know!
*If you don’t agree with the theory of evolution, you’re probably not going to agree with anything else I’ve written here. That’s okay! You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine.