12 February 2008

Fates worse than death

I believe there are fates worse than death. That is, some things I would rather die than do or have happen to me.

For instance, if I could no longer eat, or enjoy food, which is such a primary point in my life. Don't get me wrong, food is not an emotional experience - not my ultimate comfort. But the act, and pleasure of eating is something that would seriously impact my overall quality of life, if say, I had to take all my nourishment intravenously for the rest of my days.

Indeed, this is a purely personal "worse than death." Perhaps for most people the choice between staying alive and not being able to chew is not a difficult one to make. Maybe I would learn to deal with it - to cope, as all human beings have done facing adversity through time since the beginning of it. And I know there are plenty of medical conditions that prevent people from eating in the traditional sense. I'm not talking about having a food allergy, or a lack of teeth. I'm talking about never being able to sit down at a table with people I love and share a meal. Taste a blackberry picked fresh off a vine in summer time, gnash on popcorn in the middle of the night, close my eyes at HF's command as he slips a piece of rich dark chocolate between my lips.

More than food itself is the quality of the experience that makes life worth living. I like nourishing my body. I like textures of foods in my mouth. I like the opportunity for social bonding that comes up around a good meal, or even appetizers during happy hour.

What I think IS universal about all this is that we all have at least one "a fate worse than death," something that without, or having gone through, our lives would never be the same - might not even be worth living. For my friend, the published author, it would be loosing her command of language. For my bro, it's a prolonged, wasting illness.

Sure, nothing is as ultimate as death - and I don't suggest that I live in fear of not being able to taste the cool wash of beer over my tongue on a hot summer day. But each of us are here, in this life, with our own experience - on our own terms. That's what makes it worthwhile. And there's a power in knowing for me that some things are absolutely nonnegotiable - and they don't always have to be the lofty concepts. "Give me freedom or give me death" is all well and good, but often times our individual lives don't come down to anything nearly so dramatic. That doesn't mean it's any less important to know where we stand - and what we will, and won't stand for.

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