How Much is One Human Life Worth?

Sitting in the middle of the year 2020, I am realizing that so much of the conflict and struggle surrounding me and across the world, but most specifically in the United States, revolves around the value of human life. Whether it’s the Covid-19 Pandemic with over 200k human lives lost, or the Black Lives Matter protests over violence against colored people, there is a tremendous disparity between what a human life is worth to different people. So I ask you;

What is One Human Live Worth? Stop reading and really ask yourself that question.

What factors into your decision? There is different criteria for everyone and it seems to really affect how we treat each other.

  • Does the color of their skin change that value?
  • Does their age affect that value? Unborn? Newborn? Middle Aged? Senior Citizen?
  • Does their contribution (or “lack” thereof) make them worth more or less?
  • Does their political affiliation make them expendable?

There are lives being lost due to the Coronavirus, but there are many people who are unwilling to wear a mask to help slow the transmission of this illness. Who has to die, or how many have to die before it is worth it to wear a mask? Would you change your stance if you had a loved one at risk? Even if you don’t believe it helps, if there were the slightest chance that it did, wouldn’t it be worth it? Similarly, spending time in gatherings of people without social distancing, is it worth it to get a beer with friends tonight and would your stance change if you knew that someone may die from that event?

But it’s not just illness that’s killing people. There was a recent protest in Wisconsin and a teenager, armed with an assault rifle, decided to fire on looters. He killed 2 people and permanently disfigured a third. These 2 lives lost and one life dramatically shattered was done simply for the protection of property. How much were those lives worth? What was the dollar value of the damage that he prevented? What was the dollar value of the goods that may have been stolen? Why was it HIS job to make that decision and why is he now defended for his decision to kill people of property (which he didn’t even own) and what are the consequences of that action?

In July, George Floyd was killed by police while he was helpless on the ground. He was black and had a criminal record, but he hadn’t done anything that put a life in danger, yet he was slowly smothered for no apparent good reason. Was he worth less because he was black? Was he worth less because he had a criminal record?

These examples are a drop in the bucket, you can look at every life lost this year and wonder if they had earned it, if something about their situation or condition made them expendable. Unfortunately the trend is to politicize each death and remove the honest observation of that person and their value. If it were your family member, your loved one who was pinned to the ground and held there for 8 minutes until they perished, would you be more understanding for those crying out? If it were your child who was mistakenly looting and killed by a vigilante, would you say “well, they deserved it for stealing” or would you cry out that a teenager with an assault rifle shouldn’t be put in the position to make that decision? If your parents were infected with the Coronavirus because you refused to social distance or wear a mask, would you just say “well at least they were old” or would you be distraught that they died by something that was preventable.

The differences between each of us is not a curse, it’s a blessing. Every human life is valuable, born or unborn. We’re being manipulated by media and political sources who want you to think that some lives are worth losing if it supports their cause. My request is that you stop every time you hear that someone died and ask yourself, was their death “worth it” and consider what that worth was. I’m not saying you need to rage over each death. You don’t need to protest in the streets or riot because someone died, but at least consider why someone else may be doing so. Use your imagination and sense of empathy to try and put yourself in their shoes, the shoes of their loved ones and consider that while All Lives Matter is true, some lives are seeming to Matter less and those fighting are trying to make that be heard.

Be Considerate

I happened to utter that phrase this morning. I was thinking about where to place things and said that I needed to “be considerate” of the things that were already there and where they would go, specifically these were tools that had a purpose for their positioning. As I said it, those two words struck me as a parental phrase offered when trying to teach our kids to be decent human beings. Of course, I was talking about considering the environment, a totally different use of the words, but it still struck me. To “be considerate” is a very mindful thing to do.

To consider something is to think about it, to weigh the outcome. “Consider the consequences” when you are about to make some rash decision. This is very focused on you and the outcome of your actions. “Consider” in this case is to think about and weigh the results of an action. In the case of this adage, mindfulness is necessary to stop and think before you act. If you can “consider the consequences” every time you make a decision then you’ll be living mindfully with regards to yourself and how the choices you make will affect your immediate or even long-term future.

Being considerate of others, that’s still considering an outcome, but in this case, it’s more about walking a mile in their shoes. If you can be considerate of someone else, you can awaken your own empathy and start hopefully save someone else from their negative emotions. By being considerate of someone’s feelings, you’re stopping before being mean. By being considerate of someone else’s actions, you’re allowing that there might be some decision or purpose behind what they’ve done. Again, these are mindful acts. Empathy is one of the most mindful traits you can really embrace and luckily one begets the other. The more you consider how someone else will react to your actions, you give yourself a reason to continue to do that for other people. Especially when you see that your consideration has a positive effect. When you’re considering why someone did something, you can head down the rabbit hole of how it affects YOU or you can see that maybe there’s another side to the story that is completely based on them. By letting THEM have their own reasons, and accepting them at face value, you can save yourself from stress and anger.

There are so many things to consider about consideration. To my original thought, considering where you place thing is an art form? a science? a practice when it comes to interior design. The Chinese concept of Feng Shui is all about considering where things are placed for optimal flow of chi in your house. In my example, where I place a drill press may get in the way of placing boards when I want to use my miter saw. There is a flow, be it something as ephemeral as Chi or as literal as a board, and consideration is again a mindfulness when planning and when doing.

The big consideration, one that I’ve spent much more time considering in my 40s than in any previous decade, Death. Considering that you, your loved ones, your enemies all face that inevitability can sometimes bring consideration for how you treat them now, and how you continue to treat them. Either by considering that someday you may lose them or one day you’ll be gone, either is a heavy weight to let sit. I know it’s a hard one to think about but I’ve found tremendous strength in remembering that ultimate end. Some folks will do anything to avoid thinking about it, leading to different mindless pursuits as a result. By knowing that it’s always out there can hopefully give you some peace instead.

I’m adding some footnotes, a new thing for me, as I thought of examples through my writing and wanted to give some bonus reading.

Mindfullish Days – A Driving Challenge

Being mindful every day can be a hard habit to start, and trying to integrate it into everything can seem impossible. The best way to find the peace of mindfulness is to just do it a little bit at a time. Each day, find something which you normally do but you usually do mindlessly, with distractions even. Mindfullish Days will be a simple post giving you something to pursue mindfully.
I’ve recently been trying to find longer things to do in my mindfulness but the longer the task, the harder it is to STAY mindful. My favorite is to just turn off the radio while I’m at driving. I’ll quickly add that while I’m sitting here writing this I’m doing so with headphones on and music drowning out the background. I like music, it’s great for getting me focused or for helping me shift my mood. Obviously, my 30-minute drive to work in the morning is a great time to get my jam on, and going to a 9 to 5 (adjust with your hours of choice) is a perfect time to try and get your mood adjusted. If I can turn off the music and just be present in the drive then I find I notice my surroundings a bit better and more importantly, I’m less affected by other drivers around me.
I find that having music playing while driving drops me into a path, a stream, a groove. I obviously have a destination when driving, but music gives me some soundtrack with a pace and an attitude while moving through time. Even listening to “happy” music, I will often be moving with enough purpose that anyone getting in front of me is a jerk and anyone creeping up behind me is a madman. Everyone outside is working their level best to affect MY groove and I can escalate into frustration. While that level of frustration is a great topic for finding a mindfullish reaction, today we’re talking about making the drive itself into a mindful experience.
My challenge to you for the day is to turn off the radio, eject the CD, pause the audiobook and just drive. Pay attention to the cars in front you, be at peace with whatever pace the traffic is moving at, and just let yourself move through the city to your destination. You’ll find your mind wandering and that’s ok, as long as you’re still focusing on the drive. You might still get angry, but I’ve found I’m less likely to be emotionally connected to the drive if I’m doing so in relative silence.
You may find yourself getting bored, but that’s a good feeling too, just notice it and acknowledge it and then keep your eyes on the road. Try counting red cars or noticing when those “crazy drivers” pass you, only to be waiting at the next light. You’ll likely find yourself spotting behaviors that normally irritate you, try to recognize them and see if you’re still irritated or whatever emotion you normally feel. If you find yourself getting emotional, for better or worse, try taking a big breath and then audibly exhaling a few times. You don’t have to put on your happy music or peaceful music every time, you can often break free with a breath break.
If you’re really ambitious, try this for both your to and from trips. I find I’m usually in a much different mood on the way home than I was on the way in, I’m usually less stressed or more excited to see my loved ones. When your mind wanders on the way home it often summons your happy, smiley thoughts so notice those as well. Again, notice your pace, notice how you’re feeling about other drivers and just flow again. You don’t have to do this again tomorrow (unless you want to), so just accept this moment right now and do your best to take a little break away from distraction.

Expectation vs Reality

Everything in our life, for most people, is based on expectations. We expect people to behave in certain ways. We expect results from specific actions. We expect our life to turn out the way we planned. Unfortunately, these expectations are often wrong or worse, they’re wreaking havoc on our mental health. Sometimes our expectations cause discomfort while they’re still expectations, and sometimes the results are what cause the pain. In either case, these are completely states of mind causing grief in your life.

This whole battle with expectations really strikes me as I consider my place in life, my family and how I’m spending my time with them or with my work. While I’m not in the throes of a mid-life crisis, I can definitely identify with reaching a point in life where I consider what I’ve done, what I thought I’d be doing and what I can reasonably expect to still do. It wasn’t long ago that I WAS properly battling with what I expected of my life and being disappointed, depressed even, that my plans of 20 years didn’t all bear fruit. With a bit of perspective and introspection since that realization, I’m actually quite happy with the results.

In my youth, I had 2 goals really, to have a family and to be a millionaire. I’m happy to say I’ve achieved one of them and honestly pretty happy that I failed on the other. While I’m not saying that to be a millionaire is a bad thing, I’m not sure what my path through life would have been or if I’d have managed to be who I am today. I’ll never know for sure, but I think my finances have left me good footing for growth.

Expectations about my life are one thing, but it’s big, overarching and hard to really see whilst in the thick of it. Expectations vs Reality on a day to day basis can be easier to spot and definitely easier to use as a mindful practice. As I was contemplating this post, I was driving to work and dealing with the stress or non-stress of a 30-minute commute. I took the opportunity to observe my drive, the other drivers and my reaction to them, and the various uncontrollable conditions which I was dealing with. As one driver moved into the right lane to pass me, I was irritated that he was “driving carelessly” to gain 3 seconds on me in the race to work. Of course, I sped up so he couldn’t get back over in front of me. As I accelerated I realized what I was doing and chuckled. While the other driver might be driving dangerously, they also may have an emergency to deal with… or maybe they were already angry and I was just adding to that by trying to block them. I eased up on the pedal, even changed lanes, and let the whole thing go. A little less stress for me AND probably for them as well (I’ll never know.)

Driving a car is full of expectations and our chance to be irritated by what we expect to happen and what we don’t expect to happen. I often find driving to be one of my best mindful times, there is so much happening and so many different ways I’m handling life summed up in a simple drive. That’s probably an entire blog all by itself.