Thursday, April 26, 2007

NPR - One's Life

I wrote a recent column about the value of human life versus a human life, meaning the difference people keep between humanity and a stranger. It's easy to value human life, and make all sorts of claims on the value of life, but it's different when you translate that to a person, whomever they are. That's the rub, as they say, where the idea meets reality, and it's often where people get caught in the contradiction of their own values.

So, now let's take this idea one step farther, the difference between one human life and one's human life, our own. It's the obvious between where and when we make the distinction between our life and someone else's life. But what is the value we place that differs the two? Or do we have only one value, meaning our self-presevation equals to our self-sacrifice for others? Or do we make distinction based on the circumstances, situation, or the other people?

And how did these values of human life, one human life and one's own life develop and change in your life? How much was from your parents growing up that you carried into your adult life? How much changed in your adult life? Or did some event trigger a fundamental change? And which way? Values are part of what we do in our life, often in our work and careers. And if not in our work or career, then in our personal life.

We often use our work as a surrogate for our values, for all three as an expression of our service to the whole, to people and to ourselves. Do you? Or do you work in a job and find the expression of values in your personal life through religious, charity or group work? Or through a personal endeavor which helps in the same way?

I asked this because when we make changes in our personal or professional life, it changes our perspective about the world and people, and changes our perspective of who we are and our value to everything from ourselves to everyone else. I left a 28-year career in the USGS, partly from personal interest and partly from management's interest. I had to trade public service for personal values.

In short, I had to redefine my life. I spent some time exploring teaching and working for NGO's, but it's the story everyone knows trying to find a job, "Good luck, and have lots of patience." I knew this from my graduate school when I spent 18 months looking for my job with the USGS. My original goal with retirement was to take two to three years of and to (re)learn photography and explore large format and digital photography. But I wanted to keep my options open for opportunities.

Anyway, in the wanderings around photographing people, places and events, I get ideas about people and the value of life, from the universal human life to one human life, and to one's life. From the general to the specific and personal.

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