A Positive Outlook

In our world, it’s easy to assume there are more grumpy people than those of cheerful disposition. However, when I look at my fellow man, I see something quite opposite. I see an overabundance of positiveness.

Let me explain

Some distant relatives are dealing with the terminal illness of the family’s Matriarch. She has cancer and her emphysema [now classified as COPD] is so bad she is on a respirator. The Patriarch is still alive but suffers from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

I spoke with a grandchild today [she is 20], and she wants her grandmother to “pull the plug” and just die. Her father, the aunts and uncles, and cousins all agree. “Grandma should just pull the plug.”

The Matriarch asked for my wife’s and my opinion, and we said, “While there is breath and thought, there is always hope.”

I am not writing a commentary on whether people should or should not be kept alive via machines. I also am not going to talk about when Torah and Jewish Thought consider a person dead or beyond hope for resuscitation. I would like to discuss why a person chooses to live and why we should choose to help someone live.

When G-d created man in His Image, this is a direct reference to our soul[1]: He created us to behave like Him: created in His image[2] and according to His likeness:

G-d is creative and formed each and every star field, every planetary system, and every molecule and subatomic particle. We, also, have this in-bred desire for creativity and creation as well, explaining why the US government formed the US Patent office to protect and reward the creative process. We garden and dress our lawns, we marry and combine our genomes [with G-d’s help] to create unique blends of two people, we write or sing from an inexplicable internal unction, we rearrange the furniture in our home and created different patterns to please the eye  – all to satisfy a strong desire for creative accomplishments.

G-d is the ultimate optimist. In the blessings given to Abram, he said, “Your name shall be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations[3]. Was Abraham the progenitor of multiple nations at that time? The question, of course, is merely academic because he only had one son at the time: Ishmael. Hashem was placing a blessing on the man that created and formed a new reality – and this new reality no longer included a man and a woman [Abraham and Sarah] being infertile.

In like manner, we, too, are optimists[4]. Now, we can automatically throw a Red Card[5] and bring up those who successfully commit suicide, but they are a very special case[6]. Aside from that, we get up in the morning, bathe, dress, brush our teeth, tear the tangles from our tresses, and go to work every weekday morning. We pay our bills, vote, and buy groceries. We raise children.

Why do we do this?

We perform all these tasks because we know that brighter shores await at the end of these tumultuous seas. We raise children [though at times we wonder why!] because the world requires a new generation to thrive. Our optimism demands that we make every effort to repair the world – and this is why we brush our teeth and say “hello” to a stranger. This is why we study Torah and pass our knowledge to another. All these actions make our neighbor realize that love exists and his or her day will be just a little bit brighter. Making someone else’s day a smoother journey is the most noble of endeavors.

[1] G-d said, “Let Us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness.” …and Hashem, G-d, formed the human of dust from the soil; He blew into his nostrils the Breath of Life, and the human became a living being. [Genesis 1:26, 2:7]

[2] According to b.Eruvin 18a and Ketubot 8a, Image describes the human’s singularity.

[3] Genesis 17:5

[4] The ultimate optimist is the one who fights to the exclusion of his or her own life in order to assure the continuation of another’s life. True heroism like this is rare in today’s world and approaches the Work of the Suffering Messiah whose faithfulness until death provides life for so many.

[5] In Football [aka: soccer], when a red card is shown by a referee, a player guilty of misconduct must leave the field of play and no longer takes part. The team continues the game shy one player unless he is a goalkeeper.

[6] Those who commit suicide, break all the rules of life. Every organism in the world fights for life and breath. Fish gasp for oxygen-laden water when dangled above it on a hook, and the deer shot in the hunt fiercely gasps for breath even as the last of its blood spills on the snow. The suicide victim, on the other hand makes that conscious leap , sears the desire for life, and snuffs his own life. The tragedy that remains after a suicide affects not the one who ended his life. The worlds of those who remain are forever shattered and they never recover. Contrary to popular belief, suicide is not the definitive selfish act; instead, it is a revelation of devastating sadness that no one was able to see or predict.

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