August 16th, 2005

One Tree Hill

The value of life.

Sometimes, events happen that seriously put everything into perspective. One of those happened to me recently. When the doctor still suspected I had mumps (turns out I'm actually immune to it), he warned me of one rare complication of mumps that is incurable and, yes, leads to death. Let me tell you, that scared the bloody shit out of me. At the time, that possibility was on the table and very real.

In this society, we take death very lightly. We're a society of video games where if you die, you still have lives in reserve; we're a society of self-obsessed materialism where some people think the solution to their problems is death; we're a society that in general treats life in a very frivolous manner. As much as some quarters make a big song and dance about the sanctity of life - abortion, the death penalty, euthenasia, et cetera - I honestly don't believe we seriously consider the actual value, meaning, and purpose of life. We're comfortable; life is just happening and we're not thinking about it ending. As long as everyone else we care about are still around and we're in good health ourselves, we're just quite happy to let time tick on merrily by.

When you have the living daylights scared out of you, you suddenly realise how fleeting life is. I was stopped in my tracks; I realised that I'm holding onto something precious here, something with invaluable potential, and as long as eighteen years may seem from some perspectives, it suddenly felt all too short. I felt like I had barely been alive - how could it end? I haven't done much, I haven't realised the potential of life, I had been living under the assumption I had all the time in the world ahead of me to do what I want in the future. Suddenly this concept of very real cessation was presented to me and it rattled me to the core.

The part that got me most is that I discovered I didn't feel secure in my beliefs; not that I questioned their correctness (the more I try to disprove them, the more I prove them to myself), but that I questioned the sincerity and devotion of my own personal belief. You might want to think about it yourself. When you suddenly find yourself presented with the possibility that you'll be meeting your maker, you find yourself wondering about whether there is a maker, and if you feel there is, you find yourself wondering about your belief in them and if it's worth a damn at all.

Of course, now that I know I'm immune to mumps and am approaching health again, I know I don't have anything fatal right now. But having that possibility as a potential reality on the table for just a brief period of time is enough to make you realise how lightly society takes life, how it treats it as such a shallow, frivolous thing when it really contains more value than anything else you will ever have. Fearing you might not be around much longer is certainly something to give you a bit of important perspective.