Thursday, June 05, 2003

There is no arbitrary value in human life.

There is value in what that life can mean to other lives. Its value is potential. It is the risk of never knowing what might have been.

The delinquent boy in fifth grade might cure cancer, so we keep him. Investing resources, tax dollars, sweat and effort, until he fails one test too many and we discard him to become a drunken, wife-beating auto mechanic who smells of axel grease and cigarette smoke, who leers too long at little girls passing his shop on their way to school. To the little girls' mothers, to the cancer patient quietly dumbfounded by the diagnosis in the leather chair of a physician's office, his life has no value.

But his value to the young lady with the malfunctioning transmission is immeasurable.

Were he to have been killed when his wife, tears streaming and bruises darkening, lifted an unsteady pistol and threatened to end it, the young lady might have been stranded for hours on the side of the highway in her light pink dress and white heels.

Value. It is measured by what will be lost when a person is gone – dies or withers away in stifling loneliness and self-imposed solitude. In fear of connecting with others and in fear of not connecting.

"You mean nothing to me," says the young lady's lover, and she is nothing.

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