Tag Archives: humanity

There Are Things Worse Than Death

Sometimes the news gives you a story that you just can’t shake.

A woman accused of trying to suffocate her 11 month old.

Not your run of the mill child abuser, though. A loving mother who has cared for her child, born with severe physical defects that she can never hope to recover from. A devoted parent who has had to watch her child suffer her entire life, with no end in sight to the suffering.

Not just suffer, but have to be resuscitated over and over again.

To me this is the deciding factor. This baby’s body has been trying to die. It is done. But our ability to perform medical miracles keeps the poor soul alive to continue its agony.

Why can we not learn to use our skills wisely? Why have we not established a really good process for determining the situations when it is an imperative of humaneness to just let a person go when it is obvious that death would be the best thing?

I’m not talking about euthanasia here, which is what it sounds like this mother was allegedly attempting, perhaps after a mental breakdown. Although I do think there are extremely rare occasions that might call for euthanasia, (I approve of Oregon’s Right to Die Law), I think in this circumstance a more appropriate concept is Do Not Resuscitate.

From what I’ve heard it is even difficult for an old person to have their DNR instructions respected.

There are things worse than death.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of our amazing techniques to bring someone back from the brink of death. Had this baby been in a car accident, obviously any extreme measures would be most welcome to keep her alive long enough for her body to heal and regain function.

But this baby’s body is not going to heal. Her brain stem will never grow. It will never function properly, according to the doctors’ own diagnosis. And yet they perpetuate this body’s life.

People comment that it is up to God, not us, to take a body. But God HAS BEEN trying to take her body. I am not saying that our medical abilities exceed the power of God, but if you believe in prayer, then aren’t actions a very concrete expression of our will, what we wish to see happening? Are we very naively asking for a person’s life to continue, and perhaps God is “allowing” our prayer to be answered, the way God “allows” all sorts of horrible things like murder, rape, torture. “Allowing” us to exercise our free will and then deal with the consequences later.

And if found guilty, this mother will have to deal with the consequences of what she’s done, legally and otherwise. I would never attempt to condone or make excuses for her alleged actions, but I also believe that the way a person has lived counts for something. There is ample evidence that she has been a devoted mother to both this baby and her 3 year old son, including this online website that she has maintained. It appears that she herself has suffered through a situation that few of us could handle and come out the other side with our sanity intact.

I can’t help but wonder, in the event that this crime really was committed, how her community might also be held responsible: was anyone making sure she got enough sleep, enough to eat? Was anyone making sure she didn’t need some mental health care? Is the medical establishment in any way responsible for having developed the ability to diagnose permanent defects, having developed procedures for keeping humans alive when their bodies are failing, but then refusing to resolve these two aspects so that families do not get caught in a nightmare of suffering?

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Filed under Life

Semanturgy and the End of Humanity

The latest word is that we’re doomed.  

We can put aside the details, such as how we got this way, how long it will take for us to be wiped off the face of the earth, that sort of thing is all beside my current objective, which is to imagine what comes next.

One of the most profound moments of a human being’s life is when they reach complete consciousness of their own mortality.  Our lives take on new meaning as we view our existence from an imaginary point in death: how we will be remembered, how will the sum of our actions and words appear,  what impact will we have had.  

Such a perspective helps us to crystallize our purpose.  We can realize which path we have been following, and decide to continue or veer in another direction.  This epiphany is an important moment, ideally an important series of moments over a lifetime, from the viewpoint of semanturgy, which is a conscious working with meaning.  To apply principles and purposes directly to a life consciously lived is semanturgy in it’s essential form.

We must imagine beyond our individual deaths when considering global warming, nuclear war, or any other event or process leading to the potential end of humanity.  It is not enough to wonder, what impact will I have? or how will I be remembered? if it is the apocalypse.  Who will be around to give a damn?  Now the questions become impossibly bigger.  What did it mean that ANY of us were around?  What impact did ANY of us have?  

If we accept some measure of responsibility in the cause of the end, then I suppose we have to say that the meaning we constructed in our world reflects a larger value being placed on things such as profit and power rather than on the life of any of earth’s creatures, including ourselves.

And assuming we dutifully play our part in the solution, voting, writing letters, buying locally, cycling, however we choose to participate, and assuming that the end comes anyway, then what does it all mean?  

If you are a member of a certain religion that explains all this, then you have it all sorted out, so read no further.  

For the rest of us, we come to an extremely existential moment in which all word, deed and relic of humanity falls uselessly into oblivion.  Yet after this experience, we still have to figure out what is for dinner, complete another task on our to-do list, conduct smalltalk with the cashier at the grocery store.  What is the overarching goal of our day to day survival, if we will never be the next Elvis or Mother Theresa, never be remembered or revered, if even the fostering of our bloodline, the fundamental biological goal of existence, will be for naught?  

Does it make our actions even more profoundly amazing, a generous gesture to a stranger, an encouraging word to a passerby, when we know it will come to nothing more than the fleeting presence of love, living only in the immediate moment and then lost forever?

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Filed under Philosophy