Placing a monetary value on a human life is, at least, unsavory; by apparent contrast, we have little difficulty pricing time, even– perhaps especially– our own. People spend much of their time at work, which they do in exchange for monetary compensation, often in the form of an hourly wage. Some, like lawyers, accountants, and consultants, even sell their time directly to their customers in the form of billable hours.
Maybe pricing our time is a mental shortcut humans take to hurdle the sticky undertaking of placing a value on a full life. The latter incorporates an element of finality: the life is over, or at least contemplated as a completed product, matters accomplished weighed against those uncompleted, the relative wisdom of roads taken balanced against those avoided or undiscovered, without any further recourse or appeal.
Adults stereotypically chide youths for their projected or enacted attitudes of invincibility, but even if grownups are more likely to acknowledge their own mortality, most everyone seems to treat time as a far less finite resource.
“There’s always tomorrow,” except when there isn’t. And when someone runs out of tomorrows, it can seem like a sudden occurrence. Sometimes the realization that time is the currency of life arrives with arresting, even crushing force.
A baseball writer recently wrote an article about the death of his young son, a child who had been sick all of his short life. A selection therefrom:
Perhaps stuck in the bargaining phase of grief, I kept thinking about how many games (indeed, how many Cubs wins, even) I would trade for even one more chance to toss my phone aside, load Emerson into his wagon, and go to the park to swing. As anyone who has grieved a painful loss can tell you, irrational anger sometimes creeps in, and for me, that has taken the form of blaming baseball for stealing my son from me, for taking my attention away from him too often over the last few years, for distracting me as I cared for him over the last few weeks, even.
Baseball mostly steals from us, steals our money (tons of our money), steals our time, steals the passion and intellectual energy we ought to put toward more important things.
How we spend our lives is how we spend our time. A life well lived is composed of time well spent. To regard every moment as a vanishing grain of finality is an approach too paralyzing to be sustainable for any stretch. Time, like other, less cosmic currencies, can and often should be invested– in the mundane, in the unenjoyable, in the unproductive, in the lonely. To burden every moment with the conscious knowledge of unalterable consequence is too much. Still, to better prepare to receive that last, ultimate punch of total realization, it may be wise to moderate our day-to-day approaches by incorporating a greater respect for the real value of time, both ours and others’.
Life is sacred. Or, at least, life is invaluable. Our resistance to placing a specified value on life generally, or an identified person’s life specifically, or even approaching the task of deciding whether and how to place a value on life, leads us to some extreme places. The death penalty is one (controversial) example. If our public policy reflects, however bluntly, our values, then it makes at least some sense that we would apply the most severe sanction to the most severe crime. Even if the logic does not compute, the arithmetic does: 1 Life = 1 Life.
In situations less severe than murder, however, and units smaller than 1 Life, the practical push toward pricing life becomes difficult to avoid. Read more…
Among its many great promises, the internet offered humanity the possibility of facilitated collaboration at a speed, scope, and cost that combined to create an infrastructure through which such vast collaborative opportunities– discourse, truly, writ large, or small, or whatever size in between you wanted, or that your ideas could command, anyway– were a realistic possibility. The structure and execution quickly became obvious, as people moved beyond unilateral, newspaper-style content publishing to message boards and blogs, where someone could present an idea, proposal, argument, or other creation, and others could respond to the idea, and even interact with the presenter in that space below the posted concept referred to as the comment section. The availability of a publicly interactive comment section is one of the most distinguishing features, along with accessibility and mixed-media formatting, of online content, and for those interested in promoting quality discourse, the comment section was the structural crux of the internet’s promise in this regard. Some sites, such as Reddit.com, saw and prioritized this concept to an extreme degree. Reddit calls itself “the front page of the internet,” but “the comment section of the internet” might be a more descriptive title.
Confucius and Plato and many others in the two millennia and a half since have made successful use of dialogues and conversations as ways of sharing, probing, and developing ideas and knowledge. If the great deliberative, discursive world wide web is to be a thing we have, though, it has yet to arrive, and the commenting structure may not be the way to achieve it. Read more…
As we enter 2016, a year in which Americans will elect their forty-fourth president, the low theater of “debates” abound, and, on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, little seems clear (or, perhaps, what does seem clear is too disconcerting to acknowledge in published prose). Rather than hazard predictions or projections, with ten months until election day, now is a good time to begin to establish a common presidential platform by identifying issues and positions each candidate can adopt. In the same way that beginning with a presumption of liberty can lead to a more carefully articulated scope of governmental authority, beginning with a voter’s platform of presidential issues and positions can lead to a national and federal agenda driven more by the electorate than the candidates and parties. In that vein, this post proposes a working draft platform:
- Declare Super Bowl Monday a national holiday
- Open the books on extraterrestrial research
- Declare the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament national holidays
- Devise a plan for the regulation of environmental externalities
- Reform federal law enforcement, including both conventional criminal law and immigration law
- Address student-loan debt
- Simplify the federal tax code
- Clarify a reasonably transparent foreign policy that addresses both the surveillance and killing of civilians, both citizen and non-citizen
- Initiate the updating of the federal domestic infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges, and railroads)
Feel free to add your planks to the peoples’ platform or suggest revisions to the foregoing in the comment section below.
As we conclude the leftover days of 2015, the nemontemi, preferably with a hopeful eye toward genuine positivity in the new year, a brief pause to remember the muse that is true hatred, a personal distaste that comes from a passionate place of deep emotion. Inspired therefrom can be words so effective, smoldering slow burns punctuated by efficiently biting lashes, true rants, that they are– in something that is apart from and rises above schadenfreude– enjoyable and even beneficial as a result.
One of the great personal feuds of the twentieth century to produce such literary output belonged to Hunter S. Thompson, vis-à-vis Richard M. Nixon. Thompson’s hatred of Nixon generated an entire book, one of Thompson’s best. When the thirty-seventh American president died, Thompson’s obituary, entitled “He Was a Crook,” evidences a true sense of personal loss. It begins:
MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK DATE: MAY 1, 1994 FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON: NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER…. HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA…. BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.
“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it.
The full program is available here.
Best wishes for safe passage into 2016.
One yearTwoThreeFourFiveSix years and eight days ago today, I started this site with the following statement: “An attorney should always put a statement of the questions presented at the very beginning of any brief unless the rules forbid it.” In that opening post, I tried to map an approach that would guide content then unwritten.
My goal has been to try to ask real questions, not leading or rhetorical ones, in an attempt to reveal something about what underlies our assumptions, ideas, and viewpoints. I’ve tried to at least imply a question in every post, and where I did not, my approach was to put forth a position that invited responsive comments, of which the site received many. Although things have slowed down a bit here this year, with
nearly 3,500over 9,700nearly 14171920,000 views in the first yeartwothreefourfivesix years and eight days, I still think we’re off to a good start.
Thank you for your readership and feedback.
Halloween easily is among my least favorite holidays, but one good thing about this fall celebration is the fun musical possibilities the day offers. On this Halloween, the ninth since Bobby “Boris” Pickett entered the crypt for good, enjoy this timeless sonic spook and stay tuned for something soon on a scholastic scare that should shake the structural stanchions of the law school sphere.
Have a happy Halloween.