Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why Life is Unsacred...,
Or Meanings In Life...

Having (for once) gotten a reasonable question from an unknown individual (waves to Anon #632...), I've realized that a succinct comment space in this post wouldn't do the answer justice, and thus, will receive its own post. The question, in case you don't feel like looking it up, was: "Just curious you said you don't believe all life is sacred. Hmm. so how do you decide what life is or isn't 'sacred.' "

Short Answer:
No life is sacred except in the eye of the beholder.

Long Answer:
The first thing that comes to mind is the word itself: Sacred. It's a loaded word complete with a matching set of baggage, mostly of a religious-print pattern reminiscent of Easter themes in an old folks home run by Methodists. And depending on which part of the country you hail from (waves at the bible belt), the religious connotation of this word is probably the only thing that comes to mind. After all, the incredulously documented fact that many Americans believe in a literal bible reading would mean that 1/3 of us think we were created "in the image of god" (and the subsequent myriad usages of the word "image" that entails), and thus by default are "sacred" in the Merriam-Webster sense of the word. And I know any self-respecting humanist (let alone agnostic or atheist) would openly scoff at the idea of life in any form being "sacred" in a religious context (as the notion is as ridiculous as koala emperors declaring martial law on marigolds...). To conflate ourselves as a species to the level of "image of god" is one of the most pompous, self-righteous views one can hold and brings with itself a myriad of "if/then" scenarios, none of which can be answered sufficiently, let alone gather a consensus, for which every human being could be happy. The plethora alone of Christian denominations is only one example of the way in which one book cannot sufficiently answer how/what/when/who to a large group of individuals in what way, as "images of god," they should act/worship/live/feel. Thus, while the idea of being "created in the image of god" may be a nice story to tell, until one can say in what way the "image" was reproduced, or what living that "image" means, and provide an answer to satisfy why that justifies a "sacred" connotation, to think that life itself is "sacred" simply because a book decided we were a Xerox of a deity isn't sufficient to make it so. In fact, in many ways, it cheapens calling life "sacred" in that we are all now little "godlets," including Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Unibomber. Would any rational person consider these people "sacred"? Regardless, the religious expression of "sacred" is a blind philosophy ignoring individual realities under a lump idea which serves no purpose other than a fuzzy warm comfort...

On the flip side, a secular understanding of the word "sacred" brings to mind "specialness" or "uniqueness" which can only be implied by the so-far lack of other verifiable signs of intelligent, sentient beings in our perceivable universe. And while a rousing pep rally could be held around the notion that we are "special" and "unique" insofar as what we have discovered and learned through our paltry few decades of technological innovation, any discerning mind will realize that an absence of evidence is in no way conclusive evidence. For example, simply because we have yet to see a little green man flying through the clouds, tentacles flying in the wind, philosophizing about Nebulous 7's grand revolutionary light-warp sofa-bed air mattress doesn't mean they don't exist! (Aliens and light-warp sofa-bed both!) We've barely scratched the surface of our solar system, let alone our galaxy or universe, and claiming we are the pinnacle of life, or are even remotely special in our micro-pixel view of reality at large, is downright stupid. Evolution doesn't even teach such things and only encourages false senses of pride which don't reflect the very real possibilities and probabilities of sentient, intelligent life on other worlds and dimensions, and our place in that larger view (if a "place" is to be had at all...)

That said, a separate argument could be made for life being "sacred" simply for life's sake--in other words, by virtue of our shared humanity (irregardless of the larger family tree from which we came) we are, or should at least assume, that we all are "special" and should hold our collective "human identity" as special and unique (ergo, sacred). Of course, by default, that assumes that every human must view every other human as not only an equal in every respect of the word (intellectual, physical, emotional, what-have-you...), but as an equal worthy of worship in some form. Notwithstanding such things as genetic mutations, there are the individual choices made by separate persons in which others find those actions or deeds not only quite unsacred, but downright despicable. And while the very idea that "all men are created equal" is a very integral part of our nations founding, it again is a blind philosophy which sounds good but is irrespective of individual cases. While the idea of everyone being equal can try to ensure that every person gets the same chances and creates a sense of "fairness" about the way our society works, it is only a "better" scenario than anything we've come up with to date, as even a very rudimentary study of our society will show all the inequalities inherent in people themselves, let alone their opportunities...

Life itself isn't so special in any of its ways and means--in fact, it could be said the sheer variety of life on this rock alone should be proof enough of how unspecial it is. Any meaning or sacredness brought to the table is as varied as the people themselves. People make their own meanings for life, their own reasons and thoughts for what is and can be. What one person holds as sacred is bupkiss to someone else, and that, my friend, is how it should be. Once anyone tries to force someone else into holding a similar belief of any type of stripe through force or coercion, you aren't left with any sanctity or sacredness at all--you are left, however, with a hollow, empty feeling of "Really? That's all there is?"

In true reality, humans thus far are barely a blip on the radar of history and biology, and I dare say all of our "medical breakthroughs" only ensure that we will most likely remain so--nothing more than a blip. Not only have we eradicated from most of the human race the strong from the weak, we have raised the weak up to equal survival status of the strong and have declared that any sort of death or cleansing of the human race is "bad," despite the very natural selective process of who lives and dies through disease, genetics, evolutionary mutations, what-have-you. Unless the human race survives to the point of being able to naturally survive such things as polio, chicken pox, staff infections, the longer we treat and find "cures" for everything from yellow toenails to cancer, we only further ensure our inability to cope with natural life, let alone a "sacred" life. At some point, either through our own stupidity or other natural phenomena, we will be almost entirely wiped out by the very nature which spawned us, and Earth will have nothing to show for it but some ruins which she herself will quickly take care of...

Now before I get lumped in with the Scrooges of the world and declared a fan of "decreasing the surplus population," I ask you to ask yourself: Why do you yourself believe life is sacred? What is it about being a Homo sapiens sapiens that makes you think you are "above" and "better than" a box turtle? That what we've accomplished makes us "better" than a star-gazer lily?

I could be wrong--perhaps we all are "carbon copies" of a god. Who's to say? Perhaps we should all be quite content to be "special" for as long as we are around, be happy with our "uniqueness" in what we have observed thus far.... But what would be the point?

As stated earlier, the only thing special about us that we know of thus far is that we want there to be "an answer" or "a meaning." It may be that the very fact that we can ask this is the meaning of life...

Regardless, any type of "sacred" value placed on life is a personal choice, an individual choice, and in no way confers special status on the rest of us. I dare say, most times people even remotely ponder the question is during those moments of fear and disaster, when they consider that the life they have is about to end. In which case, shouldn't we consider that death may be just as "sacred" as life? After all, the only thing thus far that life does ensure us--the only "goal post" as it were--is death, in which case I could argue we are not so much in the image of a deity in that we have yet to figure out how to end the end... And if life, our lives, can't be stopped from ending, how sacred, how important, could it possibly be in the big picture?

3 comments:

mom said...

hello jason! you have been a bit busy with your blogging. it must mean that the weather right now is not so sacred except for the winter sports people. :) i am not one of those people since i am a firm believer that if God wanted me to do winter sports i would never feel cold and i would never brake a bone. my question after reading this latest blog is since sarcred is in the eyes of the beholder i can kill those horrible spiders that seem to like always being in my bathtub when i want to be in the bathtub? and when i help dad with cleaning up his fire wood area dad can kill those horrible snakes that seem to appear? AND if you are up here at any of these sightings of these non-sarcred life forms you will help kill them for your mother since its at my house and i do not find those 2 life forms sarcred at all? AND if you do find any of those non-sacred life forms at your place you can do whatever only if i don't have to be near them? ok? :) otherwise i think life is sacred even those horrible people that you can always fine. we are all around for a reason. the spiders and snakes are here to keep me on my toes and make my heart pump without working out. :) i guess i will see you soon. love and prayers

Cori said...

This post made me think ...

I would say that not only human life,but all life is sacred.But I guess there are various ways to define and understand the word 'sacred' (as you rightly point out).

One definition merely reads "worthy of respect". And from that definition I would say that every single living organism, just because it exists, and is full of intricate complexity, is worthy of respect. Worthy to be treated carefully and gently and with care. (Including snakes and spiders :-) -you have such a nice mom).

I work with troubled teens and one thing I want to bring home to them is the sacredness of their lives and the sacredness of nature and life itself...Not because of any reason but just because of life itself which somehow demands respect.

mom said...

hello jason! you have been a bit busy with your blogging. it must mean that the weather right now is not so sacred except for the winter sports people. :) i am not one of those people since i am a firm believer that if God wanted me to do winter sports i would never feel cold and i would never brake a bone. my question after reading this latest blog is since sarcred is in the eyes of the beholder i can kill those horrible spiders that seem to like always being in my bathtub when i want to be in the bathtub? and when i help dad with cleaning up his fire wood area dad can kill those horrible snakes that seem to appear? AND if you are up here at any of these sightings of these non-sarcred life forms you will help kill them for your mother since its at my house and i do not find those 2 life forms sarcred at all? AND if you do find any of those non-sacred life forms at your place you can do whatever only if i don't have to be near them? ok? :) otherwise i think life is sacred even those horrible people that you can always fine. we are all around for a reason. the spiders and snakes are here to keep me on my toes and make my heart pump without working out. :) i guess i will see you soon. love and prayers