The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

The Ironies of Living

This entry is the third serial following prior entries 'Life in an Ambulance' and 'Quality of Life.' And first, I must add another facet to 'Quality' that I did not include:

The situational irony that a keen observer would have noticed was the juxtaposition the situations of Terry Schiavo and Pope John Paul II. Here we saw two distinct paths to death. Both were essentially starved to death, but in Terry Schiavo's case, she had no voice. Of course, we can argue up and down whether or not she had previously made those wishes known, but the fact remains that in the end it was not she who made the final decision. It was not even her parents nor her husband, not even Congress made it. It was a judge who'd never met her.

In the Pope's case, I believe it to be that he made his decision known that he would choose life up to a limit. He chose to restrict how far doctors could go in keeping him alive. And as it played out, his death was the result of having exceeded those limits. Thus, he died just according to his willful choice.

Shortly before his death, one of the major newsmagazines wrote an article about his choice to suffer and the message he was sending with that choice. It was a good article that could never have been written about Mrs. Schiavo because her suffering--both her concious state and her slow starvation--was not by her choice. In sum, the article simply discussed the meaning of the Pope's suffering: the beauty and the sacredness of it. By it, they wrote, he was proclaiming that suffering was not a bad thing but could be used for good when chosen for such an end. His own suffering reflected his Savior's suffering: choosing the suffer for a purpose beyond himself and the benefit of others.

So, the definition of 'life' continues to be contracted, both in life and death. Separate yourself from the society around you--I think you can do that. Take a step back and look at our world: we are attempting to define the essence of who we are. Without life, there is nothing else. What kind of fools are we to think that we can define, then, that to which we are so delicately dependent on? I do not think of 'life' with a capital 'L' as some impersonal force, but it may come out that way. Life is not ours to define is it? We live it, good or bad, and we struggle and elbow for position, but do we have any power over life? It has power over us, yet we are trying to usurp that power, wrestle it into a manageable state and control it like a demoralized, beaten dog.

This is another irony. We are defining by fencing in the essence of what first defined us. It is as though the tree is defining the depth and breadth of its roots. Were this defining of life to go on in the animal kingdom we would see how utterly outlandish it is. We are the subjects under the authority of that which allows us to live.

In our traitorious ways, having liberated ourselves from Britain, from slavery, from sexism, prejudice, Earth, morality, and pain, why should we not think that we can claim some liberty from life? We have now the 'right to die.' Life is no longer the default. For someone like Terry Schiavo, we do not err toward prolonged life, for we see death as a better option--one which none of can say is better for sure. We shall all know one day for ourselves, but until then who can decide such a matter?