On the Improbability of Existence

What exactly does it mean to exist? Do you ever think about how surreal this experience of existence is and how incredibly strange it is that we are here at all? A popular indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel has a song called “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” (linked here) that makes me ponder these questions quite often. My favorite line from the song is at the end, “How strange it is to be anything at all.”  This line was called to my attention when one of my favorite authors, John Green, quoted it in a video he posted on YouTube back in 2012 (linked here). In this video, John shares his thoughts on the improbability of human existence. There are so many different events and people that affect our lives every day that are so improbable.

John ends this video by saying, “How improbable are we? How strange and how lovely it is to be anything at all.” I like to reflect on that quote a lot. Not only is our existence strange and surreal, but the important word there is that our being is lovely. Despite how we see ourselves physically or mentally, the fact that we exist and survive is lovely. I think a lot of times we get so caught up in everything happening in our lives that we forget how bizarre it is that we are even living. Just take a moment to think about the fact that you’re alive. Think about the fact that you are able to breathe in and out and move your body around. Take a moment to reflect on how surreal the mystery of life is.

This reflection draws me to a different vlog that I was watching once. The idea of the vlog was to make you think about the planned things that happen in our lives and, more importantly, the unplanned or the improbable. Being human, we love to plan our lives; some of us more than others, but we all love to plan what we will do with our present lives and our futures and everything in between. This vlog makes me think about all of the unplanned things that have happened in my life that have taught me things that I could never have experienced if I had planned every little detail.

For example, last spring I went on a mission trip to La Isla de Encanta, Puerto Rico. [Don’t worry. I’m sure I will write an entire blog post on this trip in the future. This is a condensed version]. This trip was something different than anything I had ever done before. I was a mere month or so from my high school graduation and I was going to a different country (Well, sort of) with my best friends and people that I would be moving thousands of miles away from in a few months’ time. When leaving for this trip, I remember recalling this video and thinking, Leave the door open for things that you can’t plan that could be WAY better than the things that you can plan. That was probably the best decision I could have made about this trip.


During the week I spent in Puerto Rico, I challenged myself to remain completely open to new experiences and opportunities for new stories. I allowed myself to go completely outside of my comfort zone. My friend and I had somehow turned into the translators of our group being that we were the only two that knew much Spanish. I let myself accept and do any job that was asked of me. I can remember painting lines in a parking lot for about 3 hours in the baking sun one day and skipping lunch to finish building a fence on another, but I would not have asked for it any differently. Because I allowed myself to be open to new experiences, I have so much of a better story than I would have if I had not challenged myself to leave the door open.


At the end of the vlog (linked here), Julia challenges us to “Leave space open for some awesome, amazing and miraculous things to come into your world that allow life to write a better story for you than you could have ever written.” I think that if we allow these new experiences to enter our lives we can really take advantage of how miraculous and surreal our lives actually are. It is so unreal that we exist and so, so very lovely that we have the opportunity to do so.



2 thoughts on “On the Improbability of Existence

  1. Katherine Becquet says:

    Just casually stalking you and this just so happened to be exactly what I need to read right now, love you Syd!


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