To Live

When I was going through my Gong Li and Chinese cinema stage, I watched a movie called To Live.  It is the story of a family which loses everything.
Yet they persist.
Strive, toil, work.

Theirs is a common story during the upheavals of China's recent history.  But there are many others - the Irish, Russians, Jews, Koreans and so much in Africa.  Natural disasters.  Natural consequences of Man's actions.  And the deliberate, incomprehensible cruelty of Human upon Human.

When life can be so hard, when we can be so hateful to each other, why do we persist in living?

Years ago, I was at a client site with a co-worker.  She was following me in the exit stairwell, when she tripped on her pant cuff and fell head first onto the concrete landing.  As she lay there, a black pool of blood growing around her head, I thought I saw Death floating by.  This tenacious, determined woman lay in a heap, her fashionable clothes unable to define her, actually having betrayed her.  She recovered.  But there, in the fluorescent rays of the fire stairs, I saw the gauzy film of life torn, waving in a breeze.

I picture the surface between oil upon vinegar.  Before you stir it up.  Such a clear line of demarcation, and yet there is really no barrier there at all.  That's what I saw that day - how easily one can plunge into the other side.
 Why do we want to live?  
Why do we think living is good, and dying bad?  Or do we?  Do you?  Even Dr. Kavorkian would refuse be be a tour guide to the other side for a healthy patient.

People struggle and suffer, and yet they persist in struggling and suffering, to survive it - not to end it.  Exert.  Grind.  Labor.  Strive, toil, work.  Are they crazy?  Are they stupid? Weak?  Strong? Or are they Hopeful? 

Some people do want to end it. But it's considered an aberration.  The mentally ill get put in "safe" rooms [formerly known as the padded room,] so they won't try to end it for themselves.  Dr. Kavorkian is considered a monster even though his patients clearly wished to die.  Police, fire fighters, social workers all intercede when someone tries to end their OWN life.  Prisoners, even on death row, can get put on Suicide Watch, ironically, to NOT have them die.

My mother struggled for 10 years with a degenerative brain disorder.  Her mind still worked, but her body increasingly did not.  If you've read my blog and read bits about my mother, you'll remember that she was the Original Princess.  She was the favored child of a wealthy family, who loved art and design and looking stylish.  And there she was, only in her mid-50s [not far from my age now,] laying prone, barely able to feed herself.  And yet I never heard her ask to end it.

Were I captured and tortured, I might maintain hope that someone would rescue me, or that I might find a way out.  Or even the absurd notion that the captor might release me.  Even while knowing he might torture and/or kill me.  But I could have hope, couldn't I?

What was the hope my mother had?  What is the hope others have who are stuck in the poorest, filthiest, most pathetic regions of the world?  What is the hope North Koreans have?  Or is merely not being sent to one of their many concentration camps, not being caught, enough?

In the worst, seemingly worst situations, is there always a kernel of hope?  Hope that the disease would be cured? That the dictator will change? That tomorrow will be better?  And if so,

Where does this Hope come from?

Is it evolutionary?  Over millions of years, did this spiritual kernel of hope grow for survival?  But is survival good?  Who, or what, determined that?  Where did this desire to survive come from?  Might there be something programmed into us, our spirit, that undefinable core, that tell us Life is right and Death is wrong?  After all, in the Genesis story, when the Serpent tricked Adam and Eve, what he introduced to Paradise was Death.  And God himself shed blood - an animal sacrifice, a death - to cover their "issue."

Whether you see Genesis as an allegory or truth, it's a great story of the human condition, isn't it?  We dwelt in paradise where there was no death, with complete communion with an eternal Being.  When an enemy enters the garden, he brings with him Death.  The slithering masqueraded one, to bring enmity between The Good and His Creations, was to bring Death.  Death is the Enemy

And I think we all, somewhere, somehow, know it.  We are Life.  The Enemy is Death.  It didn't grow in us.  It is a primal, essential part of us.  Those who push it away and voluntarily walk through that film have lost an essential part of their Humanity.

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