Have you ever heard something and not known its origin? Something that spoke to you, a lyric that resonated with you, but you didn’t know what inspired it? Then you look at the print and realize there’s even more to it than you thought of before.
I have. In fact, I was quoting a passage of Richard Dawkins before I even knew who he was. I was listening to a line from Darwin’s The Origin of Species without knowing its origin. I didn’t know the latter until I was reading The God Delusion, and I literally just found out the former while looking something up for a blog that I then put on hold.
I love music. Mormons are musically inclined, with many of them playing instruments or singing. My family was no different. Both my parents were, and still are, in the ward choir. My mom plays piano. My older sister played flute, and I was in orchestra playing viola since the 7th grade.
Music has a way of speaking to me in a way that nothing else can. It fills me with joy and moves me to tears. It motivates my exercise and amuses me endlessly. There’s always something for whatever mood I happen to be in. One of my favorite bands is Nightwish, a Finnish symphonic power metal band.
It took me a little while to warm up to their new lead singer, Floor Jansen, but after the second or third time listening to their album Endless Forms Most Beautiful I was sold. The first track opens with a line from Dawkins, “The deepest solace lies in understanding / This ancient unseen stream / A shudder before the beautiful”. It’s the last track that really gave me an experience of complete cerebral explosion.
It’s one of my absolute favorite tracks on the album, and it’s called “The Greatest Show on Earth”. This, too, opens with a quote from Dawkins, but the final spoken words were the ones that always raised the hair on the back of my neck. But because I never opened the accompanying booklet to read the lyrics, I never knew where they came from. In reading Richard Dawkins, I discovered that the last spoken words in this beloved song are Darwin’s, and the ones right before are Dawkins’s own.
I am terrified of death, but this has given me some comfort, not to mention perspective. Because of this, I wish to share that quote by Richard Dawkins with you:
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re 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 these 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?”
I gained a new level of love for Nightwish through this discovery, a deeper understanding of myself, and an overwhelming desire to read The Origin of Species. Lucky for me, I picked that up at Barnes & Noble today.