Life, Living, and Death

Here’s what was important this week…

I killed a six day old tamagotchi today. I wasn’t attentive enough, and the next time I checked on him there was just an angel floating on the screen, instead of an adorable duck waddling back and forth. The experience reminded me that I’m too busy for a pet, and as my coworkers tell me often, that children are even more work than a pet.

I’m privileged to live in an age and country where having children is a choice, but with that choice comes its own rationality–or lack thereof.

“I didn’t choose to have a child. Not if “choosing” means something rational—weighing pros and cons, coming to a conclusion. I tried that process but ran away from it because, even though I wanted a child, it seemed to me that creating a whole new person was such an enormity that no one could rationally decide to do such a thing. There is so much at stake, and so little certainty about the outcome.”

“Choosing to have a child involves a leap of faith, not a carefully calibrated rational choice. “

Even after you choose to have a child, if you use enhanced fertility methods like in vitro fertilization, a choice becomes even more powerful:

“The embryos are our responsibility, but not our possessions. Fatherhood and motherhood happen in the space, the gaps, between these children and me. I mean this literally: The motion of a spoon from bowl to mouth and back again; pushing toy cars around on the floor; saying no and snatching a small hand away from a cat’s tail; saying no and pulling a child back from the other child she’s hitting; saying no and listening to sobs of protest as I close the dishwasher; but most of all, saying yes. That is how they got here, these children. Because we kept saying yes."

Having children is a choice, to a certain point. Creating a person is a powerful decision. A person is a being, with thoughts, feelings, and a myriad of abilities. But sometimes people aren’t as valuable as others. For victims of sex trafficking, their humanity is co-opted by commoditization. For ordinary sex workers, that is also at risk of happening, most often by the customer of their services.

“I look at their faces and I see money”, a quote by a man who runs a house in Romania where workers perform for people over webcams.

There is also a debate about whether the legalization sex work increases or decreases sex trafficking demand. This article from German magazine Der Spiegel (in English) makes the case that it increases demand, noting that:

“Nowadays, a little boy in Sweden grows up with the fact that buying sex is a crime. A little boy in the Netherlands grows up with the knowledge that women sit in display windows and can be ordered like mass-produced goods."

This topic is one that I’ve studied in depth, as I wrote a research honors thesis about child sex trafficking in Romania. If you want to read it, it’s available for free on the Digital Commons website.

In discussions about life, death can come up as well. Having modern capabilities for saving lives has led to many discussions about the end of life, and this quote from a Lapham’s Quarterly essay is indicative of that:

In twenty-first century America, there is no such “how to” manual on dying. Nor does our state-of-the-art modern medicine offer much help.

Fact: Seven out of ten Americans wish to die at home, die the Good, the Valid, Death.

Jane abhorred whispering, so Steve and I included Jane in our discussion of the mechanics of her death.

Fact: Seven out of ten Americans die in institutions, intubated, infiltrated, invalidated.

“This is a treatable problem,” Steve said.

“Yes,” I said, “but she is going to be worse off afterward.”

Some more on end of life care:

Death can be faced more actively (and less poetically) today, with (of course) an app. Called Days of Life, it calculates just that–how many days you have left before you will (on average) die. But being an app from Silicon Valley, it takes a different approach.

“Days of Life’s orange and green pie chart makes a similarly stark statement, but instead of encouraging you to run around looking for a turkey leg to devour or a vial of magic potion to knock back, its intention is to make you consider your own mortality and to want, as a result, to spend your remaining time as wisely as possible. What that means these days, of course, is “productivity.””

And what will happen to your digital identity, once your Days of Life app no longer has any days of your life left to count? Pew Research, thankfully, did the research.

After all this heavy talk, it’s a good idea to take a break and watch this video of a crow using a jar lid to snowboard down a roof.

It’s been a long week, as I’m in the process of moving and the holidays are coming up. With that in mind, here are some Christmas-themed asides:

Santa: rebranded.

And my favorite Christmas song, Low - Just Like Christmas.

Weeks like this one, I need a reminder (or a challenge) like this:

GIVE UP You’ll never read what’s in these (Web Browser) tabs. Just close them.

And finally, have an excellent weekend, and check out this week’s music recommendation. Lightwaves - Starting to Believe

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