Marriage does not involve the commitment to have sex with one person for the rest of one’s life. It involves the commitment to refrain from having sex with anyone but that person for the rest of one’s life…or until we get tired of each other.

Red Bird

Have you ever ended an animate life? I suppose nearly all of us have at some point or another. We must appear as gods to small insects. And it is often very easy to end such a small life, be it by accident or intent. I recall an experience from my childhood that changed my perspective of killing in a profound way. That day, I had spent some time walking around my back yard in search of a bird to shoot with my Red Ryder BB gun. After a few frustrating attempts, I decided to post up on the trampoline. The trampoline had a clear shot of my mother’s birdfeeder. After a minute or so of laying there, the feeder in my sites, a red bird entered my focus. I thought, “This is much easier than following them around the yard.” I aimed carefully as to not damage my mother’s birdfeeder. I pulled the trigger and a BB went right through the red bird’s head. It was a perfect shot. I felt adrenaline rush over me. It felt dirty, but tingly. I could feel it in my chest and face. The bird’s weight overcame his now limp grip on the feeder. He rotated backward and fell from his perch. I was so proud. The scene of the bird’s fall played over several times in my mind’s eye as I shared my excitement with my mother. She explained her displeasure with my actions in a very calm manner and asked that I not shoot birds from her birdfeeder anymore. I agreed. Later that evening, the scene continued to play in my mind. I watched life leave the red bird as he feel backward. Over and over, I replayed it. I then began to cry. I sought out my mother and apologized. She comforted me and expressed the perspective that such an act was not in my nature.
You wake to the sound of a loud thump from the front part of the house. The clock reads “2:41”. As a parent and devoted spouse, you feel the obligation to investigate. Do you reach under the bed to retrieve your pistol? If you do, you may be walking around your house with a loaded gun for no reason. If you don’t you might not have the ability to defend yourself against any intruder that might have been the cause for the loud noise. You take the gun and check on your six-year-old daughter. She is still in bed, asleep. You feel relieved she is not hurt, but a furthered sense of anxiety as she was likely not the cause of the noise. Your bare feet gather dust as you step deliberately, slowly making your way down the hall, toward the living area. You grasp your pistol tightly in your right hand and provide support with you left. You hold the gun so the nose is pointed down and away as you walk. As you near the end of the hallway, a figure enters your line of sight. It is no one you know. When do you shoot? Do you talk to him/her first? Do you ask about his or her intent? What if you do and he/she begins moving toward you? How big would he or she have to be before he or she poses a big enough threat to shoot? What if he or she has a weapon? Many would say the life of the child outweighs the life of the intruder. As you have no knowledge of the intruder’s intent, you are justified to shoot first and ask questions when the police arrive. Let’s replace the six-year-old girl with an elderly man. He has lived his life and likely has little more to contribute to society. The value of his life would seem less than the life of the intruder if said intruder were to live a long productive life. Still, to quote Star Trek’s Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” By this logic, we three innocents have greater need than the one intruder. Then again, what if this person were to go on to find a cure for cancer? The needs of the many, in this case, would be reliant upon this one person’s living to the date on which he discovers a cure cancer. How could you know who this person is or what potential he holds? Then again, with unseeable variables, it would seem logical to form the best conclusion possible with variables available. Three is more than one, so the lives of the three outweigh the one. At the same time, the greatest unforeseeable variable in this case is the intruder’s intentions. One’s life is certainly not as valuable as another’s belongings.
What if you are alone in the house? You wake up to a loud thump echoing in the empty hall. You grab your gun and make your way to the front part of the house. The intruder sees you as you near the end of the hall and threatens your existence with his/her weapon. Legally, you have every right to end his or her life. Suppose the intruder has a family. He/she has a six-year-old daughter who is reliant upon him or her for survival. You, on the other hand, have no one depending on you. By the logic we presented earlier, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”, we can conclude your life is less valuable than his/hers. Unfortunately, the understanding of all variables in such a situation would seem rarely fully understood.
I felt remorse over ending the life of a bird. I cannot imagine how the ending of another person’s life might feel. That person is someone’s child. That person may be someone’s sibling or parent. It doesn’t mater what mistake the person is engaging in at this moment, the person could go on to affect other’s lives in a positive way. In a society, we are all connected in some way. My actions affect your actions, which affect his actions, which affect her actions. The butterfly effect theory poses the idea that small actions can result in significant alterations to a system. This is often illustrated by the idea that a butterfly could flap its wings on one side of the world and cause a tsunami on the other. Because we all inhabit the same system, our planet, we may all affect each other in significant ways without realizing we are doing so.
History shows us that one person can change the world. One person may birth an idea that starts a revolution. Any human’s potential to do good is enormous. Even if this person will not affect the world positively on a global scale, who am I to value my life over a life that may mean more to someone else? Since having a brain tumor removed in 2004, I feel as though I am living on borrowed time. I do not suspect my life was spared so that I may end another. Perhaps others do not feel this obligation. Still, it is unfortunate that these kinds of judgment calls are often made in the middle of the night, by scared, illogical people. I am not anti-guns or anti-home-security. To be anti-anything draws a line in the sand and works only in absolutes. If I am anti-something and you are not, we are at odds from the start. If I express a perspective and you do not close your ears to it because you hear something you disagree with, we can discuss the topic until we reach a compromising conclusion or resort to recognizing we simply disagree. In the end, I would encourage consideration of all apparent variables before engaging in an act that might change the world in a significant way. Stop tsunamis! Death to all butterflies!