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…
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.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together. Confucius taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government. This wisdom was echoed centuries later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, “The first bond of society is marriage; next children; and then the family.”…No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.