There has been a lot of speculation in philosophy, music, writings, and film about the value of a life. How much is your life worth? What makes it valuable? We see people that tally themselves up by the amount of money they have – others, by the amount of money they give away. Some by the happiness they have and others by the size of their family. Would you die knowing you were saving another person’s life? Would you press the button knowing you would come into a fortune, but also knowing that someone somewhere would die?
I think that measuring the value of your life in dollar signs is greedy and foolish. Measuring it by happiness is absurd. After all, while it’s wonderful to be happy, some of the most influential and admirable historical figures suffered greatly, and I would not say their lack of joy made their lives less valuable. In this case, I think of Anne Frank, of Gandhi, and of Martin Luther King Jr. They had happiness, to be sure, but there were times of great misery and it was the conviction in those moments that has set them apart from others. And in family? There are many who I am sure are kind, wonderful people who by choice or nature are unable to have a family.
There is a song called “Seasons of Love” that I think sums up my beliefs on the value of a life very well. It is the opening song (film version) of the musical Rent. For those unfamiliar, Rent tells the story of a group of young adults living in poverty in New York City at the turn-of-the-century. Each one has struggles – money, morality, health, and happiness. The opening songs asks bluntly “how do you measure a year?” and lists all the possibilities before settling on love. Love given and love received are incredible tokens. They show the true heart of a person, how they are valued by those around them, and how they choose to live their daily lives.
So for me, I chose to “measure [my] life in love”.