I was excited to find on another blog this elegant musing by Eytan Kobre, an Orthodox Jewish attorney from New York City, who always has something thoughtful and insightful to say:
Ask a proponent of plug-pulling why he believes what he does about Terri Schiavo and the response will likely be that she presently has zero dignity of life, that without consciousness, her life is devoid of value. But isn’t that a supreme irony? This woman’s fate has caused, by this point, countless millions of words to be spoken and written about some of life’s most important issues—the meaning and value of life and of death; the parameters of man’s obligations to fellow man; the definitions of dignity, suffering, soul, consciousness, marital and familial bonds; the roles of religion, law and medicine in society, and on and on.
Though we mortals are unable to judge such things, it may just be that this woman’s life has been the vehicle for enriching the world with more meaning, more wisdom, more moral seriousness in the past few weeks than many other individuals are responsible for in their combined entire lifetimes.
And while the vast majority of people in Ms. Schiavo’s predicament do not generate anywhere near the level of soul-searching and moral debate that she has engendered, does not every such situation hold within it a vast reservoir of potential meaning waiting to be actualized? The opportunity for family and friends to express altruistic love and provide care with no quid pro quo ; the lessons that sickness and looming death teach about making the most of our fleeting time on earth and the commitment to moral betterment this inspires; the opportunity for loved ones to repay moral debts and right past wrongs—- these and many more sources of meaning make every human life inherently significant, whatever its supposed “quality.”
The only difference between Ms. Schiavo and those individuals is that she is seemingly unaware of the role she is playing in focusing a large part of humanity on life’s ultimate concerns, while other, sentient beings are aware of their roles and actions. And therein lies the rub. Terri Schiavo’s life can only be termed valueless if individual value is dependant on one’s subjective awareness thereof, if “I” am the final arbiter of all things meaningful, not the world as a whole or, dare we say, a Supreme Being. But what a pitifully small-minded and egoistic way of determining value and meaning that is.