In the philosophical debate over euthanasia one of the fundamental points of contention is whether or not life, in it of itself, has value. Many arguments that posit that euthanasia can be ethical, outline what seems to be simple subtraction. If (good) > (bad), then one can consider euthanasia ethically sound. However, if one believes that the state of living has value, then it is far more difficult to argue that it is ever ethical to end a life, no matter how miserable the actual conditions of life are. As the argument goes, no matter how awful the experience of life is, one is still alive and thus there is still value and euthanasia is unethical. I remember being particularly frustrated with this argument one seminar because it was pretty clear to me that those who were arguing that life inherently had value had never really experienced how miserable life could actually be.
However, the larger issue that I have with the euthanasia argument is its implications for death in a broader sense. If we accept that the end of a life is always an overall loss, how could we ever accept the death of a loved one? How could we ever sincerely celebrate their life and cherish their impact?
Furthermore, the argument that living has inherent value, in my opinion, draws attention away from the actual point of living. If we are to accept that the value of life is the final determinant in the euthanasia debate, then we are also to imply that the most meaningful part of life is simply living. In the end, I just can't accept that as a useful paradigm for human life. No matter what I do in the life, the world will keep turning and when I die, the universe will not change; my mere presence is not of value and, in fact, it seems egotistical to believe so. What I do think is magical, however, are the connections that we make with each other and the impact of our relationships; the surge of warmth that you feel towards another person that seems to stem from somewhere deep within your being. These are the intangible mysteries of life that are so meaningful, not the repetitive contraction and relaxation of my heart.
If it's hard to know what to say when someone dies, it's even harder to know how to adequately commemorate a person who seemed endlessly radiating this incorporeal substance of connection. I know it sounds cheesy, but in my own areligious mind, the community spirit and care that we create between each other is the only really spiritual thing that I believe in. As I can't help but reflect upon my own flawed ways, I'm inspired by my memories of Boo and legacy of her relationships. On a personal level, Boo will always push me to have more patience and understanding. On a political level, she will always remind me to seek to understand my own sphere of influence with the same insight. As many others who have touched our lives, she'll be missed, but not forgotten.