250 million years ago, before death negotiated its current truce with life, death nearly wiped out all life on earth in a fit of exuberance.

During the Permian Extinction, 96% of all marine species and 70% of all land based vertebrates became extinct. 83% of all genera of insects were wiped out. The planet became a global abattoir, reeking with the stench of spattered life forms whose long and miraculous histories had come abruptly to naught.

Through that million year charnel house crawled one ugly, unpromising little beast: the cynodont.

Cynodont reconstruction from  BBC

Dull and witless, the cynodont stubbornly continued to place one foot in front of the other. It had no hopes for the future to motivate it, but still it held on.

The cynodont could not know that its children would one day evolve into the first mammal, and from mammals would arise human beings. By clinging to life through the Permian extinction, the cynodont made human life and all of its glories possible. 

Who was more responsible for the divine moments in art history:  Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Botticelli?  Or the cynodont, who persisted through a million-year midnight?

Like the cynodont, none of us receives a guarantee that our suffering will be rewarded with a meaningful outcome.  Those fortunate enough to be born with the song of the cynodont in their heart persist anyway.  For them, even the remotest possibility of a happy ending is enough of a reason to continue.  Yet there are others-- equally talented,  intelligent, and filled with promise-- who just can't find it within themselves to hang on.  Imagine what their lives might have led to, if they had just continued putting one foot in front of the other. 

For Lauren, 1986- 2012

Take her head upon your knee;
Say to her, "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here."

         -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

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