On Human Life

The paradox of the value of human life: it is both priceless (we are told) and observably worthless. If someone stumbles drunkenly into the street and is killed by a truck, a small number grieve but human society moves on. A death in West Hollywood is barely noticed in New York; it is unnoticed in Mumbai; it is insignificant to the microbes that may live on Enceladus.

Perhaps a human life is only valuable in direct proportion to its percentage of the total human population—and as the population increases, so too does our innate sense of how little we are individually valued. Is this not what we try to do when we form a community? The word community has positive connotations, but what is a community but a relationship of exclusion? Community states that “those within matter, and those without lack meaning or value.”

It is an artificial winnowing of the unbearable number of human presence—to restore some sense of purpose to the individual life.