Day by Day

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Worth Living?

We are a risk-averse society.

An example I often give is from when I lived in Germany. I observed how different the driving there was compared to that which I was accustomed in the States. It was safer, even if the speeds were dramatically in excess of anything in America.

How can that be? We've lived under the theory (as seen on billboards and bumperstickers for years) that Speed Kills.

How can autobahns replete with vehicles often cruising at 150 MPH be safer than here in the States where you "Drive 55 to arrive Alive"?

While there are certainly many reasons... the German culture, attention to detail, safe driving habits... I believe one of them is the near certain result of what happens when a Mini loses control at 150+ MPH. No matter what safety features, there's nothing left of machine nor occupant. Period. Devastation.

Compared to here, where we work VERY hard to ensure survivability no matter what. There are driver side airbags, passenger airbags, side airbags, curtain airbags, radar, sonar, run-flat tires, computer controlled steering, brakes, rollover protection, etc. We are determined to make all accidents survivable.

The end result is that we do not fear a wreck. We can afford to be careless... sure we might bounce off of something, but... we'll survive. Consumer Reports and the dealership salesman both said so... not to mention all the TV commercials touting the latest crash test result.

This expands into everything we do. Quite simply, we don't like the idea of dying. We spend gobs of money staving off Death in our last days. We put helmets on our children as they bicycle, strap them into everything, even if it's just for a short while, and curtail holiday traditions lest there be the slightest rumor of a possible chance of a risk (Trick or Treat? No... The neighbor down the street read an article on the Internet about a person who knew a friend who's nephew found a razor blade in a Mars bar.)

Which brings me to my question... well, almost. Please, bear with me for a moment.

I work under the Theory of Opposites. In order to define one thing, there must be an opposite. How can you define Peace - without the concept of War? Life without Death is not Life, but mere... existence? Ends must have Beginnings (and vice versa), White and Black, Wet and Dry, etc., etc.

So, back to my question. How can we have things Worth Living For if there's nothing Worth Dying For?

Hundreds of years ago (and in many cases thousands), people climbed into leaky, barely sea-worthy boats (ships being too generous of a term), and sailed off, never knowing if they'd return.

One hundred years ago, men would take to the skies, often with the very real possibility of returning to the ground in a less than controlled fashion.

Fifty years ago, we would strap people to rockets with more explosive power (as witnessed by their propensity to explode unexpectedly) and launch them into the unknown.

No longer.

We send robots to do our exploring. We send robots to fight our battles.

We watch others do great things. We save risk for Reality TV.

But risk ourselves? No.

So, I ask. What's Worth Living for if nothing is worth Dying for? (My apologies to the grammar police.) I don't mean being reckless; that's foolish. But surely something is worth risk.

It's one of the reasons we have trouble understanding the terrorists and islamofascists. For all we disagree with them, they DO have the courage of their convictions. They believe so strongly in their beliefs, they are willing to forego Life itself to achieve it. (Sure, the same can be said of our military, but let's admit it... our military is in no hurry to die - witness all the armor and precautions we take, and just walk up to any Soldier and say "Risk Assessment" to them and watch the eyes.)

What would You die for? All that we've put into living... what would you chuck it all for? Parents will likely say their children... but, is there anything else? If someone said, you walk into that room, and you're dead... what would you consider to be worth that choice?

Because, if there's nothing worth dying for... then what are we living for?

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