Today I was having a conversation with someone who has visited persons who are elderly and receiving palliative care. I asked him if any of them have expressed temptations to end their lives prematurely.
“Many,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
He told me that it’s because of a sense of no longer being useful. “For so many, their sense of worth is connected to how useful they can be to their loved ones and to others in their life. When these opportunities diminish, so does their estimation of the value of their lives.”
“The world will be saved by beauty.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
I recently returned to the Middle East to continue my practical education in fundamentally human things.
Among the “courses” that I took was breakfast.
The photo above is of my breakfast plate from the Amani Cafe in Nazareth. A dear friend of mine who has been living there for the past two years told me that this cafe was among her favourites.
I was so impressed by this breakfast platter that I wrote the following comment beneath my social media post about it:
Anyone who has ever loved someone who experienced profound vulnerability and dependency knows that people have dignity not only for what they can do but simply, and fundamentally, for who they are.
“Quality of life” is not an individual assessment but a community’s responsibility.
I recently came across these words of Rabbi Dr. Yitzchok Breitowitz who says:
The concept of quality of life, per se, is not a relevant idea because any life is worthy of sustaining because there are purposes for a soul to be in the body that we don’t always perceive. Sometimes the purpose of a soul in the body is not because of what the body can do – even if it’s comatose – but the body enables other people to do mitzvos [good deeds] such as pray, give charity, and the like. So sometimes, the purpose of your life is not what you yourself are accomplishing; the purpose of your life is what you are enabling others to accomplish, and that is a great spiritual benefit that will serve this soul well when it goes into the world of truth.
Such a view requires cultivating the ability to receive help, support, treatment, affection, and acts of kindness from others.
Kindness depends on cooperation between the recipient and the giver, between the person in need and the person rendering some form of service.
A seeming “diminishing quality of life” corresponds to increasing need and opportunities to show kindness.
Painting: Visiting the Sick, Modernist Israeli Oil Painting, Avraham Ofek
This morning, I was drinking some orange juice that I had picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart when I realized that it tasted nothing like the freshly squeezed organic orange juice that I have taken to buying at Farm Boy.
And every now and again, I eat some not-so-quality chocolate and realize its inferiority compared to the exquisite and delicious chocolate that I like to buy at Stubbe Chocolates here in Ottawa.
This is not about decadence or extravagance, but about quality and appreciation.
I remember reading a personal finance book when I was a teenager that discussed how foregoing $5 daily lattes (and similar “unnecessary” routine expenses) could lead to “building wealth” or “finishing rich.”