University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Value of Life
It is only when a drastic event occurs that we begin to rethink how we live our lives. When people truly believe that their life will come to an end, they cherish every moment and aspect that they experience.
This essay examines three perspectives on the value of life. I will draw from “My Journey Back to Life”, an autobiography by award winning cyclist Lance Armstrong, “What is a Life Worth?,” a news report by Amanda Ripley, and “Unfinished Business,” an essay by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
Lance Armstrong’s autobiography, “My Journey Back to Life” is about living life to the fullest and taking things for granted. Lance Armstrong was an athletic cyclist who spent his life racing on his bike. He has been fighting an ongoing war with big trucks that has hit him many times. Lance Armstrong always figured if he died an untimely death, it would be because some rancher in his Dodge 4×4 ran him headfirst into a ditch. “One minute you’re pedaling along a highway, and the next minute, boom, you’re face-down in the dirt. A blast of hot air hits you, you taste the acrid, oily exhaust in the roof of your mouth, and all you can do is wave a fist at the disappearing taillights.” (Armstrong, 7). That’s how cancer feels like to Lance Armstrong, like being run off the road by a truck. Lance Armstrong used to take things for granted because he could endure more physical stress than most people and he doesn’t get tired while doing it. “My illness was humbling and sparkly revealing, and it forced me to survey my life with an unforgiving eye.” (Armstrong, 15). Cancer was the best thing that happened to Lance Armstrong.
Amanda Ripley’s news report,”What is a Life Worth?” is about putting a price tag on lives. Joseph Hewins was a poor workman who was barreled over by a train. Hewins left behind his wife and three children, who were poor even before his death. When his widow sued, she lost at every level. At that time, when a man died, he took his legal claims with him, now the courts started to put a dollar value on a life- after death. “The concept of assigning a price tag to life has always made people intensely squeamish.
After all, isn’t it degrading to presume that money can make a family whole again? And what of the disparities? Is a poor man’s life worth less
than a rich man’s?” (Ripley, 2). During September 11, many people died in an incident. The government is trying to pay victims and their families without placing blame. They sent Kenneth Feinberg to persuade the victims and their families to join the federal Victim Compensation Fund. He told them that the government has agreed to write large checks to victims’ families without any litigation. There were different sums for different families and deductions. The deductions have the same effect of equalizing the differences in the awards, which critics have called Feinberg’s “Robin Hood Strategy.” “Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do . . . It will make or break a company, a church, a home.” (Ripley, 30). This means that manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing is more important than all those things.
The third perspective, “Unfinished Business,” an essay by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is about a psychiatrist’s experiences and point of view on children that know that they are dying. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is an expert on issues related to death and dying. She talks about her experiences with dying children, who she says have taught her about life. “I learn always from dying patients. Instead of always looking at the negative, what you see is the uniqueness and strength in every single human being.” (Kubler-Ross, 262). She talks about a 12 year-old girl who was dying at home. Kubler-Ross helped her and her little brother discover how much they loved each other. “Grief is the most God-given gift to get in touch with your losses.” (Kubler-Ross, 262). Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stresses how much we can learn about life by dealing with death.
In conclusion, life shouldn’t be wasted. You should live out your life to the fullest. Don’t waste it sitting around all the time. Life has no monetary values, it can’t be calculated. Life is valued by love and family relationships that can not be repeated once the person dies. Life is a journey toward death. Some of the most profound stories about this journey come from people who are close to death and from those people who are close to the dying. Life should be treasured and valued without a price.