We’ve established our oneness with the relational universe and how all human beings operate within the frameworks of the totality of their experience within the moment. Now we will focus on the personal impact these circumstances have on the individual to explore how birth lottery and event chains completely out of our control drastically influence our individual access and agency within the world. We’ll place special attention on why organizing ourselves in ways that reinforce these impacts is far from ideal. Everything within the moments we inhabit perpetually imprints on us to shape our understandings and beliefs. Birth lottery is a term to describe the universe surrounding us as we enter the world. Every child enters the world with a unique set of circumstances, born in a specific place, to individuals whose intent and effort are to be determined. Birth lottery incorporates all factors of our initial experiences because while each of us came to be within a unique set of circumstances, we all share the extreme vulnerability of being young. Factors ranging from our personal health, family wealth, and the event chains that shaped the history of our parents ensure that each of us begins life within different frameworks of reality.
It is both accurate and incorrect to claim that birth lottery dictates individual capacity—accurate because the resources you are born into have a significant impact on individual agency and access to opportunity and resources, and incorrect because all individuals are more than the systems surrounding them. Our most formative years are places of extreme vulnerability that many of us emerge from with various forms of trauma and informational frameworks for processing the world. Birth thrusts us into a specific position within the universe that we have no say in choosing, one that plays an outsized role in the trajectory of our lives. Considering the impacts of birth lottery and event chains on individual access and agency in the world, we turn our focus toward transcending the inescapability of randomness, reimagining individual experience in such a way that each possesses the capacity to escape the circumstances of their birth and express themselves within the universe.
We recognize that the most defining moment of life is birth for various reasons. For the individual, birth is a random event that brings with it frameworks forever influencing our ways of understanding the universe around us. Systems we had no say in crafting immediately take hold of our experience, defining what is and is not. Variables such as geographic location, parental wealth and attention, group spiritual philosophies, and specific laws immediately constrict the individual’s experimental agency. As a collective, we still struggle with past frameworks of birth lottery as a means of self-organization, a way of designating power and order in a world of fundamental unknowns that no longer burden us. Individual actualization demands that we grow beyond the power and influence of birth lottery on the human experience. To do that, we explore why it plays such an outsized role in present society and what we can do about it.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell lectured about how societies have historically created specific, limited types of human beings. Behaviors and bodies are molded to fit the needs of society, identifying the individual as a member of a particular group. For example, the needs of a primitive hunting culture would be different from those of a primitive agricultural society. Each provides different ways of thinking and acting within the universe according to the moment. The problem of being constrained to the time experience of our birth is not new. Over time, societies have changed how they integrate the individual, but the core problem of opportunity being birth-dependent has yet to be resolved. Now we find ourselves in a moment where the constraints of linear time experiences are loosening. Today we possess the capacity to reshape the arrangements supporting birth lottery as the primary determiner of individual expression, but only if we choose to do so.
Placing value on the birth lottery is a legal and social technology extending as far back into our history as place-based farmers. It is a form of social organization that defines individual capacity and worth by randomness, citing a divinity that none ever had the right to claim in order to infuse a false legitimacy into the ruling powers. It was thought that by assigning the position of supreme leader to an individual yet to be born, humanity paid reverence to the gods guiding our lives.
Today the concept is intertwined with nearly all of our systems, each of which has evolved under frameworks of birth lottery as a legitimate way to organize and distribute the benefits of living within societies. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it has been for a long time, so it seems natural. Individual actualization requires that we move away from birth lottery as a self-organization system. We accomplish this by rejecting randomness as the primary determining factor for individual access and agency within the world. Our shared journey toward systemic actualization is the process of reorganizing ourselves so that the randomness of our birth plays little to no role in our ability to change the direction of our lives.
We can easily imagine how someone born into extreme poverty will experience a radically different universe than someone born into wealth, and several studies support the concept as fact. For example, a 2019 study reviewing the long-term impacts of being born into poverty in the United States cataloged the effects of parents and approximately 230,000 children who lived in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, using indicators like exposure to high levels of lead, violence, and incarceration as key predictors of children’s later success. The results found correlations between male children growing up in harsh environments, increased adult incarceration rates, and lower earnings.
For young girls, exposure to harsh childhood environments accurately predicted higher teen pregnancy rates.27 Black women make, on average, sixty-four cents on every dollar made by white men. This translates to Black women being paid 34,000 dollars a year compared to 53,000 dollars for white men.28 Social mobility continues to decline across generations, down 20 percent over the past thirty years.29 It is now more likely that people will remain in their parents' economic class rather than progress. This variance in experience directly results from how we organize the laws and systems governing national and global society. Thus, we further establish the case for the concept of self to be separated into individual and system.
A nine-year study by the Center for Disease Control found that Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.30 The trauma of maternal deaths during pregnancy extends globally, with 94 percent of incidents occurring in low- and lower-middle-income countries.31 Consider also the impacts of poverty on individual health during critical development stages. Malnutrition accounts for almost half of the deaths of children less than five years old around the world. Poor nutrition in the first one thousand days of a child’s life can also lead to stunted growth, which is associated with impaired cognitive ability and reduced school and work performance.32 Throughout the world, birth lottery determines the quality of education an individual receives. We have organized ourselves to actively equip people with different analytical skill sets depending on where they are born. In doing so, we squander creative genius and sow seeds of disempowerment. These examples demonstrate how birth lottery acts as a catalyst for perpetual disadvantage, driving individuals into experiences that erode their humanity at each step.
Beyond personal circumstances, our birth lottery positions us within specific sets of institutions that dictate the conduct of life. Systemic oppression and violence disproportionately impact poor and local minorities. Throughout history, millions have been born into societies where laws were developed by one group to actively oppress another imagined to be less human. Our systems encourage this to a degree where past populations of oppressed people are now active oppressors; the cycle of violence and dehumanization continues without introspection. Widespread individual actualization cannot exist in a universe where access and agency are distributed randomly at birth to a small minority of the total population, and no amount of outliers will ever change that. Individual and collective transcendence requires us to embrace the inherent radical power of prophecy contained within every new life. There are no others beyond a differentiation of interests and circumstance, no justifiable reasons to hate or oppress another because of the random event chains influencing their being. Those embracing otherness as a means of personal gain do so in stark contrast with the nature of our universe, reinforcing beliefs and behaviors driving us toward the crisis. Understanding this fact gives us the power to radically redirect ourselves and our systems.
Systems supporting birth lottery as the primary influencer of individual access and agency reinforce a radical ignorance within our collective population. However, it would be incorrect to assume that all participants embrace these philosophies willingly. Consider the individual embodying and promoting a culture of hatred. The majority rightfully reviles them, but what event chains wove the webs tapping them into a time experience lacking the capacity to imagine alternatives? Individual actualization is a process of radical empathy, recognizing that even the vilest individual entered our shared universe with the same infinite potential as the rest of us. While the event chains composing the universal web of the individual may produce revolting results, the organization of society must never deny their capacity to return to the fold under the right institutional innovations. To believe that we all can be more than we are is a core tenant of individual actualization that we must apply to ourselves and others. We are not ignorant of the fact that the individual’s transformation must be a personal choice and that some will choose to remain on trajectories separating themselves from the single truth and our oneness with the relational universe. At the same time, we must provide those willing to embrace the single truth and work toward self-actualization in the age of crisis the opportunity to do so. Nothing is beyond change, especially the individual human embodying an infinite imagination.
What of those born into means? Individuals born into a universe free of material struggle begin their journey standing on a floor much higher than those with material struggle, creating pathways for experimental imagination and creativity unavailable to others. Our ability to fully express ourselves depends on a certain base level of security, which is a major difference in the development of individual capacity. For those born into a world without concern for material security, birth lottery often creates different barriers to individual actualization. For many, there is the willful denial of the reality of our circumstances. Whether through the convenient limiting of personal power through self-imposed inaction or through the embrace of personal circumstances as a result of direct effort and ingenuity, the individual embraces a narrative conveniently reinforced by the inequitable institutions to remove themselves from their connection to the whole. In doing so, they attempt to isolate themselves from nature and our oneness with the relational universe. They may believe that their momentary security will extend into the crisis or conceptualize their personal family unit as somehow removed from the whole. Our systems further support this cognitive dissonance through dynastic wealth transfers, calcifying beliefs in the legitimacy and fairness of the systems that be. It is not enough to recognize the need for action or support change with idle words; the crisis requires all of us to become changemakers. To abstain is an act of willful ignorance, a denial of our inherent interconnectedness in a relational universe, and a failure to cultivate the empathic powers that define human beings. How can a person who rejects reality ever become one with it? They cannot.
Consider also the fundamentalist theist, whose history and community may insulate them from the perils of life others struggle with. They argue that we live in a deterministic universe because their god architected it; therefore, there is nothing to be done about birth lottery. Those who struggle and suffer because of the surroundings of their birth are meant to be exactly where they are. It is a view in direct contradiction with many of the humanistic lessons found in the ancient texts, but one conveniently recalled whenever questions arise about the power structures inherent in monotheistic religions. In truth, there is no conflict between reorganizing the world away from randomness and believing in a universal intelligence. Our historical spiritual technologies have a well-documented history of changing their philosophies to meet the needs of the moment.
There are many circumstances and events within our known universe where accepting things as they are is valid and reasonable, but birth lottery is not one of them. We cannot rewrite the history bringing us to this moment, but we can change our past by acting within the present. We must begin by recognizing the right of self and family preservation while simultaneously acknowledging our oneness with the other and the inherent responsibility this places upon us as individuals. It is intellectually and spiritually lazy to prioritize self-preservation in a moment of collective crisis. The most direct path to individual security and prosperity is through the elevation of the collective. Only then do we maximize our capacity for experimental imagination and innovation toward a shared vision of the good.
Today our systems embrace birth lottery as the highest form of soulcraft. It is a way of organizing ourselves that draws deeply from historical superstitions to support significant disenfranchisement for the majority. Self-actualization is the process of purpose-driven creation, intent manifesting through individual and collective efforts to be more than we are. To reject the grasp that birth lottery possesses over individual access and agency is to open ourselves up to a universe of genuine equality of opportunity, laying the foundation for possibilities of individual and systemic actualization presently unavailable. The elimination of birth lottery as the determiner of human fate is and should be considered the north star of the reforms necessary to reshape the world and transcend the age of crisis.