The Ungrateful Living

21 03 2009

If the value of a human life equals greater than or equal to what must be sacrificed in order to sustain a person’s life, then the following conversion factor might be used:

 1 Human = 180 steer = 800 hogs = 34,000 chickens

 I had a moment of wondering whether my life could be worth more than the equivalent of thirty-four thousand chickens.  Granted, chickens aren’t the only thing I eat, so I’ll never actually devour that many, but the principle remains the same, that quite a number of living things are to die in my place that I might continue to live.  I could be vegetarian, I suppose, but it isn’t the suffering of animals that bothers me, so much as the destruction of life.  Pain is just a response to harm.  Plants, though they lack nerve cells, still have an electrochemical response to injury, like that of a nerve, but without the nerve.

 What, then, am I to make of this?

 We enter this world screaming and crying, and we leave in much the same way.  Although, according to my father, I did not cry when I was born, and the doctors thought that something was wrong with me.  There may actually be something amiss, but I like to think that I’ll leave in the same way, in wide-eyed wonder.  At least, the thought of screaming and crying doesn’t exactly appeal to me.  Of course, neither does death, but there’s not much to be done about that.  Nine months prior, I did not exist at all, so being ejected from my warm happy place was still a huge net gain over the previous year.

 From the very first day, it’s always the same with some people: whine and cry, and then whine some more.  We see the loss so easily, but we are mostly blind to the blessings.  We curse God for the loss of a loved one, which, often, we never thanked him for when that person was still alive.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Everything is on loan.  Any good in our lives is still better than what we had two seconds before conception.  We’re always ahead.  Every single living person has an abundance of good in life.

 Yet, there is evil.  We seem to bask in the glow of a bountiful life for but a moment, and then something snatches it away.  It’s like giving a toy to a child on Christmas Eve, and then smashing it viciously on Christmas morning.  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

 For every blessing, there comes a loss.  All good things eventually come to an end.  However, for every loss, there was a blessing.  You can’t lose what you don’t have.  In theory, the losses can never exceed the gains.  You can’t leave this world with less than what you came in with, which is nothing.  In theory, the number of times a person shakes his fist at God should never exceed the number of times he thanked God for his blessings.  Yet, it happens all the time that people have a crisis of faith for losing what they were never thankful for in the first place.

 The Son of God died to give you life after life, so that you might not end in the negative, so that you could go to Heaven, rather than Hell.  For those who can’t swallow that, there’s always the equivalent of thirty-four thousand chickens that had to die so that you might live this mortal life.  Yet, spend some time in a restaurant, and you’re less likely to see people giving thanks to God for their food, than you are to see someone complain that his dead chicken was not what he was hoping for.  The poor dumb animal died to save your life, for crying out loud.  It needs more salt, you say.

 Granted…everything gets taken for granted.  It takes six billion base pairs in my genome to make me human.  Those are six billion things to be thankful for.  It’s what makes the difference between the diner and the dinner.

 My friend died two weeks ago.  Shortly before we lost her, they amputated her foot.  The night before the surgery, her eyes were alive with fear, and she gripped my hand with the clutch of one hanging on for dear life.  She was in horror at the thought of losing that foot.  I would be, too.  Yet, come to think of it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever thanked God for my foot.  I might cry out, “Why, God, did you let this happen to me?” to which he might reply, “Let what happen?  Let you develop feet while you were in your mother’s womb?”  I could lose both feet, but I would still be ahead of what I brought into this life, which is nothing.  We live in Zero Land, halfway between positive and negative infinity.  We enter with nothing, and we leave with nothing.

 The happenstance of death is an illusion, though.  People who work around the dead have said so often that they could go weeks without a body, and then in a couple of days have more corpses than they know what to do with.  So many people from the same area die from so many completely unrelated things all around the same time.  If we look at the causes of death, then there is no relationship, yet the timing is so uneven as to defy the possibility of a coincidence.  It’s not a coincidence, though.  Only God decides when we go.  He gives, and he takes away.  He knows the hairs on our heads, and he knows when we’ll die.  The means of that end is the illusion that makes us feel as though our lives were ever in a state of peril, that death has no meaning, that its timing is nothing but dumb luck.

 There was a band called the Grateful Dead, and I always had a feeling that it was not so much that they would be grateful to die, as it was that they were ungrateful to be alive.

 Every day, I thank God for my family, my home, my health, my car, my job, my goldfish (named Ampersand), and for each of the thirty-four thousand chickens that give their lives that I might live.  I also thank God for the sacrifice he gave, that I might leave with more than I came in with.  I might feel disappointed with God for any given turn in my life, but I never want him to be disappointed in me for having been ungrateful.





One response

22 03 2009

Thoughtful perspectives. And I say that not to be reciprocal.

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