All this talk about death lately led me to a fascinating dream last night that I just have to share! Lol…
In the dream, I was being prepared to be “sacrificed,” exchanging my life for the lives of others. It was a planned thing, a ritual of sorts, and having been prepared, I was being led on a tour to meet the people my life would spare…
One of the places we toured was a school of some sort where I met many wonderful people, mostly young, and some with truly bright futures. I felt good about my decision to volunteer for this sacrifice! A few of those young people were social “misfits,” in the sense that their “work” made them unpopular with their peers. But they smiled through it, and stuck together, and I admired them for what they were doing. I was actually grateful that my sacrifice would ennable them to continue, and, for their part, they seemed to understand the significance of the exchange – my life for theirs…
I realized then, that my sacrifice was not specific; as in, I had no control over which lives I would save by dying. So some of those who were oblivious would also be saved. I felt less good about that, but still… Overall, the sacrifice seemed worth it.
As I was led through the school, I also became vaguely aware that some of the “good” kids were going to die, saving one or two others in the process. It actually made me sad to think such promising lives would end to save so few, and I felt a tad bit guilty that my sacrifice would save more; my life, wasted as it has been, seemed far less valuable to me in that moment than the lives of these promising youth, yet my life would “buy” more others in the martyrdom market. It hardly seemed fair.
These thoughts pursued me as we left the school to travel to the next site I was to tour. As we drove, I noticed my window was open and granules of sand and tiny ants were coming in. I quickly closed the window, being reminded of the gruesome way I was to die, for it involved something about being buried alive in this car, and the ants were a part of it. I shuddered, wishing the manner of death chosen would have been more compassionate… Still, I reminded myself, I volunteered for this, with full knowledge of both the manner and price of my death.
It was then that it occurred to me that being dead meant I could not ensure the other side of the contract would be fulfilled. As I began to question that, the first doubts started to surface. What guarantee did I have that my life would spare as many others as they promised? I thought again of those promising young people who would die to save only one or two others. Would it be worth it? How does one establish the “value” of a life when compared to others?
As these thoughts gained momentum, I saw a tally sheet in my mind, like a spiral-bound day calendar, with each page representing another life. The pages started flipping “backward” of their own accord, reducing the worth of my sacrifice by one life, then three, then ten… Soon the pages were flipping continuously, and I realized if I didn’t die soon, I wouldn’t save anyone at all! My commitment to this sacrifice faltered; was it worth it to die if I had no say in who, or how many, would be saved?!
It was then that my dream mentor stepped in behind me, saying softly, “this is what you were born to do…”
“But…,” I began… He cut me off.
“You were born for this. You trained for this. You planned this…”
“I was born for this,” I repeated, as I finally woke up.
Like many of you, perhaps, I was raised to believe that “sacrifice” is a noble act. Whether it comes in the form of a parent refusing food so that a child may eat, or a firefighter dying while rescuing someone, or a soldier becoming maimed while serving his/her country, or a prophet dying for a cause, the idea of sacrifice somehow makes us more worthy as humans, and should be respected and admired by those unharmed.
We build memorials to honor such acts, both “big” (saves many) and “small” (saves fewer or gives less, such as maiming rather than dying). We tell stories, pass them down through generations, to keep the idea and the memory alive. We name such martyrs as inspiration, and wish we had the strength of character necessary to make such a choice when faced with it. But who are we truly serving by committing such acts of sacrifice?
Are we merely buying redemption points for ourselves, or balancing karma, perhaps? Or are we truly serving a greater good by making such choices?
There is an ongoing joke at work where everyone wants me on their team in the event of a true zombie apocalypse. Why? Because I can’t run, and therefore will be good fodder buying them time to escape. It’s all said in jest, of course, but there is an underlying truth to it. Admit it, to yourself if not to me: wouldn’t you rather surround yourself with people willing to make such a sacrifice for you, than with people who’d expect you to sacrifice for them? And what’s truly wrong with that?
In every war ever fought, we have sent our front lines out to be sacrificed that others might advance their causes. And who determines which lives or causes are more valuable than others? Should the survivors then feel guilty about being saved? We tell them, maybe, that they were saved for a reason, that they should make the sacrifice worthwhile by using their borrowed time wisely, and for good purposes. Who controls the scales that determine such balance?
My life may not amount to much in the bigger picture, but it is valuable to me. And some of the martyrs I know about seem, to me anyway, to be far more “valuable” than many they served by dying.
Even Jesus, if you believe his story, suffered a horrible death to “save” so many who would follow, but have those followers lived up to his sacrifice? For are they not some of the first to point fingers and determine whose lives are worth saving, and whose shall be forfeit for not believing as they do? (This is not meant to single out the Christian faith, but it is a history ripe with such distinctions, from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the Pro-Lifer movement today.)
I don’t know the answers today, nor do I expect them from you, though you are certainly welcome to express your opinions, if done in a respectful manner. I’m just asking the questions for now. And wondering…
Perhaps we’ve got it wrong? Perhaps sacrifice is not nearly as noble as we’ve surmised, and perpetuated through time and culture? Perhaps no one else is worth suffering and/or dying for. Perhaps we need to redefine our concept of selfishness to better incorporate the idea that all life is meaningful and valuable, and that no other can take our place? And then, perhaps, we can finally focus on taking care of our selves…
Just a thought, I guess…