Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: worth

474. Essay: Clearer Lines

For my drawing class I opted to draw the skeletons and the marble and plastic models rather than the nude model. I was prepared and more than willing to deal with the mockery and questions inevitably hurled my way from those steeped in a culture that no longer understands the concepts of restraint, dignity, and art. Here’s why.

Restraint

I believe it’s important to have boundaries for what you will and will not do. More important is knowing why you make those choices. For me, I don’t need to know intimately about any other woman than my wife. In fact, I doubt seriously that any marriage has been bettered by knowing more about another of the opposite gender than about their spouse. That’s how marriages are ended, not strengthened.

Dignity

I believe humans have immeasurable worth, both as individuals and as a distinct category of being.

Art

I believe art should reveal us to ourselves and invite us into the greater concepts to which we aspire: love, justice, mercy, truth, wonder, peace, selflessness. The greatest instances in the arts do not abandon us in the story at the height of displaying our selfishness, violence, or sensuality. They do not pursue those things for their sake alone, but neither do they erase all ambiguity, irony, and subtlety.

It takes precisely no talent to show a murder or nudity, but significantly more to hint at it without ever showing it in frame. (This is also how mystery and drama are well incorporated.) Even a cursory survey of seminal works reveals how the arts’ great pursuit is for the true, the good, and the beautiful.

I did not draw the nude model because that aspect of the assignment — the nudity itself — failed on multiple levels: it would not have brought me closer to truth, goodness, and beauty; it would not have revealed me to myself or invited me to “the aspirational perfections”; it would not have dignified the model, the medium, or myself; it would have short circuited my pursuit of artistic excellence; and it would have violated the boundaries and freedoms I now enjoy.

Clearer Lines

G.K. Chesterton said, “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” I would add that whenever art and morality intersect, those lines should be even clearer.

439. Instrumental Value

There are few things worth what you pay for them. Instruments are one of those things, partially for how long they will last and partially for how well they can communicate from your soul.

353. Essay: Technology’s Gray Area

It used to be that someone was either dead or alive, no middle ground. Think of ethical problems encountered in the medical field. You’ll quickly notice positive and negative sides to the dilemmas. More importantly you’ll notice that these dilemmas came not from assuming that the natural progression of life and death has its place, but from how technology has created these gray areas in the first place. In its altruistic quest to help, technology has stepped in to bring back from the brink those who have a chance of survival. It has also created entire categories of significant ethical problems.

Neither the benefits nor the dilemmas would exist without technological intervention, but one of my true concerns is that for all the progress made, we are becoming less human.

Short-term Intervention or Long-term Lifestyle?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a great thing. It is a short-term intervention that gives the injured a fighting chance. Surgeries also are short-term interventions aimed at getting the person back to working order. But what about the body that isn’t fighting, that must stay on a machine that breathes for them?

I have seen a machine that lays down layered cells like bricks to build a 3-D organ, such as a heart. And then the heart contracts, functioning all on its own as it should, so it seems sensible to think we can keep a physical body functioning long after the person is already gone. And this is where most of the ethical issues are encountered. Now that we’ve placed the body on a machine that perpetuates its normal functions, is it right or wrong to take that away? The materialist, meaning the one who does not believe there is a spiritual or metaphysical realm, hangs all hope on sustaining the body. If they are right and there is nothing more than what we see around us, there is no other logical choice but to sacralize the physical universe.

The problem is, there’s only one way to find out whether or not the person is already gone. And it’s irreversible.

Function Versus Life

To me, the presence of the spirit within the person determines whether they are still alive or not; the spirit is the essence of a person. If the spirit is gone, the body still can carry on its functions, but function is not an indicator of life. Function only indicates that the physical body has the ability to continue carrying out the processes it is suited for and has been doing all along. Of course the answer is, “Yes, the body can function as it has been,” because that is precisely the intransitive definition of function: To work or operate in a particular way.

A computer functions, but does not have life. A storm functions, but does not have life. A bypass machine functions, but does not have life. A liver is an organ with a function, but it does not have life. Transplanting an organ does not transplant life; it only grants function to another who is already living. If being alive is not solely due to an organ, it must be due to something else or to several other things. Life is obviously connected to the material world without being inherently bound by function. It seems this distinction between function and life opens the door to deeper questions of the metaphysical.

Material Versus Spiritual

For the materialist, the body becomes sacred because it is all we have. But if the body is incapacitated, what good is it to perpetuate its functions? Like one dealing with numbers rather than human lives, the materialist is left to draw precise lines delineating value from worthlessness in the body’s varying states of function. Historically, governments have stepped in with responses aimed at appeasing the two demi-gods of religious inscrutability and science’s claims, only to produce more ethical dilemmas. Materialism gives no clear answer to what makes us human and what makes us alive.

My Current Thoughts

This is where I presently stand on this issue. The natural progression is from life to death. There may be several short-term interventions — which include surgeries — to give a person a second chance without increasing ethical dilemmas. However, long-term interventions almost always step into the gray. All life is precious, sacred, and valuable. But, believing that there is a spiritual realm as I do, I do not think that this life is all there is or that the body is all we have.

For those believing in a spirit realm, the spiritual life given by God makes the body sacred; all things flow from the primacy of the spirit, which is where the idea of human dignity comes from. Spirit and body together is what makes an individual that person rather than another person, and the presence of a person’s spirit is what I believe makes them alive. It doesn’t make ethical decisions any easier, but you may gain a sense of clarity if they are made with this in mind.

342. Essay: Relationship Decisions

Work on you, don’t concern yourself with your future spouse. Worrying about your future spouse is an appealing obsession, about as healthy and lasting as cotton candy on the tongue.

Daughter, it seems to me that it’s not a woman’s job to chase down a man because that short-circuits the maturation process he so desperately needs if he is to be the rock you will need him to be. A spouse is to be strong when the other is worn down. But a man needs to have his own spine rather than have it supplied by someone else.

Son, the opposite point is true as well. It’s not a man’s job to make a woman respond to him or to fall in love with him. She should decide within her own heart, make up her own mind, be certain of her own accord.

If these two necessary parts are short-circuited, some day down the road when things are bad, challenging, tense, or unsure, the one who had their mind decided for them by someone else will almost certainly walk away. But when they think back to the moment of decision, if they made it on their own, more often than not it will bring them to the same decision as they originally had — of faithfulness and loyalty and love.

In matters of the heart, truncated free will eviscerates the value of the relationship. Forced love is empty. Having your mind decided for you is worthless. And worrying about who they are or someday could be is even worse.

312. Inspired

When you’re inspired, get the idea down into a more solid form. Whatever that means — pen and paper, an instrument of choice, a bit more time awake than usual, a weird experiment — just go with it. It’s worth it.

297. Undervalue

Be careful not to undervalue things that you cannot quantify or measure.

292. Spent Time

When you spend your time doing something, make sure it’s worth it.

263. Quotes: Dr. Seuss on Personhood

“Though you can’t hear them or see them at all, a person’s a person no matter how small.”

—Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), from Horton Hears a Who

153. Sexuality

Every collector, whether of stamps or coins or vintage memorabilia, knows that an item’s value is directly related to how much it has been circulated among the general public.

When you become married, one of the greatest gifts you give your spouse is that you haven’t been in everyone’s pocket.

9. Cost and Worth

Cost and worth are two very different things. Do not confuse them.

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