Sep 6, 2015
The Angel of Death's Growing Concern
When I imagine the Angel of Death, what I think is how pissed of he/she/it would be with the human race right about now.
Take this concept of the Angel of Death or the Grim Reaper or whatever you want to call it. The idea is that at each of our deaths we're visited by this supernatural creature. Excuse me for just a moment while I gag at the human exceptionalism implied by this happening only for human beings and not for the other life here. But the tradition is it only happens for human life. And since this tradition dates back to before we understood the basics about space and the Earth's place in it, let's limit this hypothetical Angel/Reaper's assignment strictly to humans of the planet Earth and not to what must be the other similarly inhabited planets in the universe.
So what we have, in this imagined scenario, is at the moment of each and every human's death on the planet Earth this supernatural being shows up and collects the soul.
Once it would have been such a leisurely job. Almost like being on a permanent paid vacation (assuming it comes with a paycheck). First, there's the question of when the job started ------ i.e. when did our ancestors become "human" enough to qualify for the Angel/Reaper? Was that around the time of the fossil we call Lucy? That was over 3 million years ago. Or is Lucy still too "animal"? Or is it Homo habilis as we know they made stone tools? If so, that was about 2.8 million years ago. Or maybe it was when we learned how to control fire --- currently thought to go back about 800,000 years though it may go back to almost 2 million years. But whenever that was, there certainly wouldn't have been many of us. (At first there would have only been one of us.) Up to 200,000 years ago the estimates for the hominid population are between 10,000 and 100,000 individuals. It was very few humans in a restricted geographic area. When there were only 10,000 of us, given a lifespan of about 20 years, that would mean that only 500 souls had to be collected a year. On average that's one soul a day for two days then the third day would be the busy one.........two souls came due.
Even when the population got up to 100,000, with a lifespan of 20 years that's 5000 souls a year. That's just under 14 souls a day or 105 minutes between souls. That's still plenty of leisure time. Time to talk to each soul and get to know that person if the Angel/Reaper were so inclined. Or time to simply enjoy the beauties of this planet without the constant presence of us.
Then about 200,000 years ago we homo sapiens appeared. We spread out of Africa, but, unlike other hominids who also left Africa, the population of homo sapiens really takes off. By 10,000 years ago (8000 B.C.E.) it's estimated there are 5 million of us. From there the population continues its upward growth reaching 50 million by 1000 B.C.E. and just 500 years later it's doubled to 100 million.
I heard a fact recently that boggled my mind. As many people have seen the Mona Lisa as were alive in the world at the time da Vinci painted it in the early 1500s. Imagine da Vinci's reaction if you told him the population of the world...............that's as many people who would see this small portrait of his. I've heard it was Leonardo's favorite work, but I don't think he'd believe you if you told him that many people would see her. The population of the world when he painted the Mona Lisa was around 500 million. Even da Vinci with his mind open to many possibilities would find the idea that half a billion people would look at his painting hard to imagine. The population of all Italy was only about 11 million at that time. But the Louvre got over 9 million visitors last year and expects to make it up to 12 million annual visitors within a decade.
And now today we have over 7 billion people on Earth with estimates of 11 billion by the end of the century. On average a person dies every 0.56 seconds of every minute of every day.
Imagine the progression of the Angel/Reaper's job. It used to be able to spend most of its time leisurely enjoying whatever it enjoyed. Now it doesn't have time to stop and take a deep breath (assuming it breathes). We're dying each and every second. Even if taking souls is its favorite thing in the world, at that rate it doesn't have a single second to enjoy it, to savor the taking. Because in less than a second it's got to take another soul.
It took almost all of human history for the population to reach one billion. That milestone wasn't crossed until 1804, a little over 200 years ago. It took just 123 years, until 1927, for us to add another billion. And now, in less than 100 years, we've added five billion more for a current total of over seven billion of us. Seven billion people living means that seven billion souls will have to be collected.
The mythical Angel of Death must be absolutely furious with us. The Angel/Reaper would be the biggest proponent of birth control there is. Flitting from soul to soul all the while cursing our rabbit-like tendencies and our ability to completely understand how we procreate (unless you're a Republican who's talking about rape) and our inability to completely control our procreation. This is not the mood I'd want to meet the Angel of Death in, but, then again, if it is pissed off, it's only going to be able to express that anger at me for 0.56 seconds.
Population data for charts:
10000 B.C.E. – 1940 C.E. data from "World Population - Historical Estimates of World Population" (accessed August 2015)
1950 C.E. – 2100 C.E. data from "Population of the entire world, yearly, 1950 - 2100" (accessed August 2015)
Billion milestone years from Jeffrey Brown, "World Population to Hit Milestone With Birth of 7 Billionth Person," October 27, 2011(accessed August 2015)
For more about human population, read "As Dumb as Deer." For more about mythical supernatural creatures, read "Immortal Death Wish" or "The (Not So) Great Zombie Apocalypse."
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