Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The illegals say, “We are not criminals, we only come here to work so we can support our families.”

This attempts to justify an act (illegal residency) because of the goodness of the motive. Ok, supporting one’s family is a good motive. We might quibble with the word support—Jack Grubman felt it necessary to trade millions worth of insider info for a place for his son in an exclusive kindergarten. And, what about the millions of families south of the border that are getting by, somehow, without money from the USA?

When a motive is used to justify an act, we have to ask if there are any acts that could not be justified by that motive? For instance, is it ok for me to murder your family so that my family can survive? Can I push your family out of a lifeboat so my family can take their place?

I flipped past a Board of Supervisors meeting on the tube and heard one supervisor state, “No matter how strong the laws against public urination, the necessity defense will still apply.”

It’s great that the law recognizes that kind of necessity. Ultimately there is no such thing as plain old necessity. It is not necessary that the universe continue to exist. And likewise it’s not necessary that any person or thing did, does, or ever will exist.

Necessity is conditional.

- If I don’t want to pee my pants, I have to pee in the bushes.

- If I don’t eat, I’ll die.

- If I don’t work, I won’t get paid and my family will starve.

- If I get fired my family will starve.

- If I tell the truth I’ll get fired and my family will starve.

- I had to use a corked bat in order to hit enough homeruns to earn the bonus so my family won’t starve.

Necessity is a physical sensation. Cells want to live. Cells want pleasure. Cells want to reproduce. Cells pine for past states of well-being.

For example:

My mom, who had been sliding toward demise for years, had an acute illness that doctors predicted would kill her within a day or two. My mom was beatific. It may have been the novelty of the morphine high, but I think she felt she was going to have a quick death.

She had talked a lot about suicide but found she couldn’t bring herself (her cells) to do it. She had however, documented her desire that no extraordinary means be used to prolong her life.

The only treatment for her condition, a blocked intestine that ballooned her belly like a starving baby, was surgery, and my mom refused. Good for her. Now she was delighted to know she’d be dead within forty-eight hours.

She survived. Against high odds, her condition partially resolved, and she survived another six weeks. She’d had a slow growing form of lung cancer for three years. The hospice nurse reluctantly whispered a prediction of “about a month.”

After going home and seeing her tummy go down, she got bored with the waiting for death routine and wanted to make plans for the rest of her life. She didn’t really eat, so regaining strength wasn’t going to happen. But the cells don’t want to die.

She never got out of bed or removed her catheter or her fentinyl patch. She was on nearly constant oxygen. She died about seven weeks after the onset of the blocked intestine, in a nursing home where I put her after three weeks of home care.

She went to the nursing home as a prerequisite, so we discussed, to deciding on a more permanent placement. The agreement was for a month, to see if she could regain some strength. This was pretty much bullshit, but we couldn’t discount another miracle. (As it turned out, both lungs were full of cancer and there wasn’t any chance.)

There are moments when life-themes trump cell-selfishness. This was the case when my mom first entered the hospital and was told she’d die soon. But it’s hard to sustain for any length of time. The cells are planning to live. For the cells survival feels necessary, even when they are part of an eighty-six year old woman who can’t maintain consciousness despite the oxygen machine pounding away to the max.

What kind of necessity was there that my mom survive another day, another hour, and at the end, another breath? The cells, so unrelenting, are cruel. Let’s face it, life doesn’t care about you or me. It cares only about itself.

----- o -----

No comments: