Life and Death, Laws and Principles

On the whole, I prefer being alive. Particularly when I consider the alternative.

I don’t consistently enjoy the moment I’m in: whatever is “now.” Relishing some of the “nows” I’ve experienced would have been reason for concern, and that’s another topic.

But life, being alive? That’s good. Even when it’s been bad.

Remembering that life can feel good helped me talk myself out of my first suicidal impulse, decades back. So did remembering that I’m very stubborn. I’ve mentioned that before. (January 22, 2019, July 7, 2018)

But that’s not what I’m talking about today.


If it was just me thinking that ‘alive’ was better than ‘dead,’ I might have a hard time convincing myself that my preference mattered.

Mattered to anyone other than myself and the folks around me, anyway.

Thing is, it’s not just me.

As a Catholic, I’m expected to see human life as special, sacred, a gift from God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258, 2260)

As if that doesn’t make things awkward, I should also see every human being as a person.

A real person, a neighbor, someone who matters: created in the image of God. Someone I should — must — love. No exceptions. (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism, 1789, 2258, 2260)

As a platitude, ‘love thy neighbor’ seems sufficiently fluffy. Acting as if I think it matters is where it gets hard.

Particularly when doing so means being counter-cultural.

Our Rules, Unchanging Principles

Dick Orkin's Chickenman, opposing crime and/or evil.I drive on the right side of the street and stop at intersections marked with a red octagon: because my culture’s rules say I should.

And because the rules make sense.

Folks in some parts of the world drive on the left side of streets for the same reason.

Minnesota traffic regulations are an example of positive law, rules we make up. And change, when our circumstances change.

Positive law had better change as our societies change, or we’d be stuck with rules that no longer make sense. (Catechism, 1957)

Then there’s natural law: ethical principles written into reality’s source code. Natural law doesn’t change. When positive law reflects natural law, life works better. Ideally, positive law — rules we make up — would reflect natural law. (Catechism, 19501974)

When positive law, our rules, doesn’t quite match natural law, we’ve got problems. Which may have inspired Chickenman’s ongoing quest: opposing crime and/or evil. (June 6, 2020)

Homicide, Hammurabi and Motives

Law code of Hammurabi, recorded on a clay tablet.Murder, killing an innocent person, was a bad idea when folks like Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi enforced their law codes.

It still is. Which is why it’s illegal. It was, at any rate, as defined in 2020 Minnesota Statutes Section 609: and probably still is.

What’s changed over the millennia is how murder gets defined. Which depends partly on who is, legally, a person.

I strongly suspect that killing a slave would be at most the equivalent of a misdemeanor in many cultures. Equivalent, maybe, to burning autumn leaves in a smokeless zone.

Happily, my culture outlawed slavery about a century and a half back. We’re still working through issues stemming from that practice, but I think there’s hope that we’ll resolve them. For one thing, slavery is now unfashionable. And that’s yet another topic.

One more thing. Slavery is a bad idea and we shouldn’t do it. Ever. (Catechism, 2414)

But my culture still thinks that killing some innocent folks is okay. Provided that they’re too young or too sick to deserve life. That’s a bad idea. (Catechism, 22702275)

Motives for our legal homicides may seem nice.

Slogans like “every child a wanted child” and “death with dignity” may no longer be in vogue, but I’m guessing that the ideas are still in play.

I’m glad to be in a family whose members aren’t likely to kill me because they feel sorry for me. And that’s yet again another topic.

Fitting In: Or Not

Daniel Lewis Lee: killed July 14, 2020My awkward circumstances don’t stop with how I see abortion and euthanasia.

I see all human life a precious, sacred. Even when the human has done something very wrong.

That puts me at odds with a fair fraction of folks who’d reasonably be expected to agree with me over whether or not it’s okay to kill someone who’s too young or too sick to matter.

Maybe my life would be easier, if I ditched my principles and settled into one of my culture’s sociopolitical pigeonholes. Easier, maybe. But I think it would be a bad idea.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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