Sunday, November 08, 2009

Quick thought on American society

This will be brief, as I just took my chemo and expect to be woozy and useless in a few minutes.

Something I've noticed about American society--and something I don't necessarily agree with--is that, as a culture, we value potential more than anything else. The starkest point I've noticed is that, when a child dies, it's treated as the ultimate tragedy; on the other hand, if someone elderly dies, it passes with resolution and sometimes a sense of relief. (I understand relief if the person suffered from some prolonged illness, like Alzheimer's or severe arthritis. That's not what this comment is about. That same relief can be applied to a younger person.) What is the greatest commodity lost if a child dies? The potential to be something great. However, when someone in their 80s or such dies, with them goes a bounty of knowledge and experience.

I've thought about this off and on for a long time, but recently, I had the privilege to talk to a woman just short of her 97th birthday, who has been sewing since she was a small girl. She's been sewing, a learned and valuable skill, for nearly a century. How often do you meet someone who's been doing something, anything (apart from, say, breathing), for very close to a hundred years? There is so much to learn from her, and so much fulfillment. Potential just doesn't come close.

Feel free to disagree with me. This is just how I see the world. YMMV.

I feel chemo brain setting in. Time to let my IQ drop by half in private.