Do you know what an arithmetic progression is? Of course you do. Our lives are a finite arithmetic progression with a common difference of one: we live one year at a time. One follows one follows one – and so on towards infinity, until, one quiet news day, a bus brings a bloody end to your smug-faced progression. Or maybe it’ll be Gog, Magog and the Lake of Fire, Sarah Palin or a CBRN incident. Oh come on: Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear.
That’s an arithmetic progression. Fucking boring.
Now think of a geometric progression. Are you an optimist? I’m not, I say things get worse. I say we live in a nightmarish geometric progression with a common ratio of a half. We live one life, bad enough, but then we’re back again with a life half as long. After that: another life, half as long again. Then another, again half as long – and so on into infinity until we’re dead before we have a chance to be born.
Think of it like reincarnation. I’m going to live this life as a human, a squalid lump of rotting flesh with a heart that beats for a million ticks and then stops. One human life and then I’m dead and gone, cremated because I’m not worth the grave-space. Call it a hundred years before I’ve checked out – maybe I am an optimist; maybe I just want to make the maths easier for you. A hundred human years.
But then I’m reincarnated. I’m not so lucky, though: I’m on a geometric progression with a common ratio of a half, remember. So this time, maybe I come back as a chimpanzee and only get fifty years before getting smeared.
Then, before you can say “the transmigration of souls,” I’m back as a snake and only get twenty-five before kicking the calendar.
Next, I might return as a camel for twelve and a half years before popping my clogs. I quite fancy being a chipmunk for six and a quarter years and a mouse for three and an eighth, before eating another dirt sandwich.
I could add another eighteen months as an opossum, before rejoining our great majority. As a particularly resilient worker ant, I could manage nine months before being remaindered. I’d follow that up with a life as a worker bee, before turning up my toes to that too.
Then I’ll race through lives as a housefly and a fruit fly until I’m back for just five minutes as a female mayfly of the species dolania americana – and thence to meet my godless maker.
But even if I took all these reincarnated lives, from my fifty years as a chimpanzee to my five minutes as a mayfly of the species dolania americana, and added them together, I still wouldn’t get another hundred years in total.
That’s the nature of this hellish geometric progression. Even if you kept coming back after the mayfly: for two minutes, one minute, thirty seconds, ten seconds, five seconds, two seconds, one second – you’d still never match your hundred hypothetical years as a human.
Don’t waste it.