Marlowe's Shade

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Value of Life

I was discussing family history with my four year old the other day. In explaining how her mother and I ended up getting married because of an convergence of events, she made the connection I think most of us make at some point. Our existence once depended on a series of events that, had even one of them gone differently, we would never have been.

I believe that not only does one's essential existence depend on both parents, but also on the timing of the birth. Children from the same parents are obviously very different, so to me it stands to reason that a birth postponed a year will be a very different child. So I think it is natural and appropriate for us to have a sense of awe, as my daughter did, when we consider the preciousness and uniqueness of our identity. When we think of this as something somehow belonging to us, the meaning is lost in the trite concepts and language of "self-esteem". But when we see it as a gift that we did in no way merit (how could we?) then we begin to see our existence clearly. We try to convince ourselves that if we hadn't been who we are, we would have been someone else. The deep truth is that "you" wouldn't have been at all. Creation would have had a hole where you were supposed to be. I'm very pleased my little girl is considering these matters so early in life.

From this point of view, we can't over-estimate the value of a single life. This is easily demonstrable with newborn life. Pharaoh and Herod committed their atrocities because they were acutely aware of the potential of their innocent victims. But this also extends to the damaged, the elderly, the disabled. While our current utilitarian culture can only value them as life support units for health organs, we ignore the implications of the undeniable uniqueness of each life. I could try to illustrate this with scores of hokey analogies, but I think we all have to come to this realization on a deep personal level. For me it was seeing that this individuality was one of the keys to the mystery of Love. Will you accept a substitute for your beloved?

Granted that there are circumstances, outcomes and entire lives that are flawed. But if we can't see into the future, how can we make judgments and decisions concerning them? I've seen happy outcomes from terrible beginnings and promising lives utterly wasted. Sorry, but we are not granted access to the mysteries of Free Will and Destiny.

Obviously my opinions are based on my Christian worldview, but most of my existence was well permeated with secular ideas and up to a point my decisions were based on these more post-modern guidelines. The results were disappointing. I think the value of all Life becomes self-evident beyond a modern concept of "self", and that value can be seen in the gift of our irreplaceable identity and this epiphany ignites the passionate sense of worth in all Life, which is the essence of Love.
papijoe 6:33 AM