Sunday, February 12, 2023

Long Descent

A lot of boring people, frankly,
Littering most of your ancestry—
Or, if not boring people, boring

Stories. As among the living yet,
The better stories draw attention,
And it’s easy to convince someone

They will find among their ancestors
The better sort of stories to tell
And feel vaguely made more important,

But the odds are really not that good,
Although ancestors outnumber you.
You puff up what you can—a scandal,

Minor nobility, a chieftain,
A few history-adjacent lives,
That sort of thing. With enough of them

Going far enough back you might find
An actual historical name.
The big shots reproduced more often,

And it’s said half of Europe descended
From Charlemagne, and likewise Asia
Mostly seems to track back to the Khans,

No doubt both exaggerations. Still,
What a wonderful clue your boring
Ancestry is to the distortion

Of the chances that random samples
Of humans, even hefty tranches,
Must turn up someone interesting

By the terms that matter to humans,
Terms from history, myth, and fiction,
To anyone but their descendants.

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