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  • Someone once told me that the human body, in its purely physical form, is worth $1.72. Or maybe it was $72. I honestly don’t remember, although I can say for certain that it had the number 72 in it and that it was not over the $100 mark. How much does a pound of beef cost? The human body, vivisected and centrifuged, is worth less than a cow, a lamb, or even the family dog. We assign value to our lives based upon what the heap of shit can do, though. I wouldn’t wear you as a coat, but maybe you can fix my plumbing or something.

    “He could have been something, you know,” they say when someone dies. “He had so much life ahead of him.” We wouldn’t keep each other alive if each one of us wasn’t worth more to another than we are to ourselves. I always aspired to be a lesser creature because of this. I always aspired to be the family dog, to not be aware of the value of life. On the Discovery Channel, animals always seem to accept death as if they realize that they are not fast enough, not strong enough, not smart enough and have thus fallen to a mightier foe – that they in fact deserve their fate. They do not cry, they do not plead, they do not expect their kin to turn back and save them. They have collapsed under the great muscle of death that is fed by the great heart of life. Enter the abyss, my dear antelope, and allow the pool of life to grow in strength.

    I remember very clearly the first time I encountered death, I mean really encountered death. There was that one late July Sunday on which we, for some reason or another, did not go to my great-grandmother’s condo to sit in the 90 degree, mothball-saturated heat and pretend that the stale cookies on the coffee table were both mouthwatering and thirst quenching, but I hadn’t any idea that days later her withered old body would be thrown in the ground until it separated and returned to the roots.

    No, my first real experience with death occurred behind a sheet of auto-safety glass while my mom filled the gas tank of our 1986 Ford wagon. I watched the dog run into the road, casting a million shadows beneath the streetlights, and then the squeal, thud, silence. The traffic stopped. Everyone knew. Even those who had not seen. The world stops in some way for every death. The air gets still, the lights flicker, the baby stops crying in the other room. Something always stops. But I won’t stop. Not for anything. Because there are certain things that the universe does when one acknowledges a reason for living.
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