Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to Question the Value of Human Life

It happened the other day as I was browsing in Barnes & Noble. I looked to the left and encountered the following image:

First of all, you will realize that the book had to be faced out in order for this event to occur. I sincerely hope that the employee who made the decision to display the book in this way did so ironically.

It took me a moment to register the meaning and significance of the image before me. It could certainly be interpreted in several ways. People with a religious belief might interpret it as a sign of the end times. Ironically, it could also be regarded as the definitive rebuttal to theism. In any case, it left me with a sinking feeling that would not go away easily.

This image seemed to be mocking the the idea of human value. It was as if the book, simply by existing, challenged the concepts of progress, meaning and purpose. "I exist" it seemed to say, "What have you to say about your world now?"

I admit, it was a potent challenge. My initial reaction was one of bewilderment and resignation. I was almost prepared to concede the point and admit that there was no inherent meaning in the universe and that life was just a bizarre, pointless aberration.

But then something happened. Something deep inside of me rose up and entered the fray. Call it the divine spark, the human spirit, the essence of my being. Whatever you want to call it, it came to life with a response even more singular and powerful than the monolithic challenge issued by the book: "No."

It was a response that transcended all intellectual and emotional appeals. It was the will to live, that inexplicable, undeniable fire that burns deep within the heart of all beings. It was that voice that came to my rescue when all other defenses had been shattered. "No" it said, "I am, I assert my right to be, and no argument can stand against the ineffable mystery of manifest life."

I left Barnes & Noble in a state of peaceful contemplation. I had gained a renewed understanding of the dignity of human life. I realized that there is something inherent in life itself that gives it value and nothing we do can ever diminish that value in the slightest degree.

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