I heard that life is sacred, but I don’t know what that word means.


A woman outside a clinic told me that a tiny mass of cells was a person, but I didn’t think it looked like one. I heard her say that the bundle of cells was just what a person looked like when it was very small. She said it had the same genetic makeup and all of the same DNA as a fully grown person and therefore had the same right to life. I watched her scratch her nose, dislodging a thousand skin cells containing her full set of DNA, which described her entire genetic makeup. The skin cells died.

The bundle of cells in a pregnant woman’s abdomen would grow into a fully developed human being, she said. That is, unless they didn’t, as was frequently the case. But, the bundle of cells had the potential to grow into a real person. The woman outside the clinic told me that life begins at conception.

If she had said before conception, I might have believed her.


A man in black told me that a woman produced a special kind of cell each month. If the special cell came into contact with another special kind of cell produced by a man, a person would grow out of it. That is, unless it didn’t, as was frequently the case.

The special cells were living things, individual forms of life. The man in black told me it was a sin to keep the special cells from meeting each other. He told me about pills and implants and lubricated pieces of rubber. They kept the special cells from joining. He told me these things were murder.

I told him my sister’s special cell came out of her body in a stream of blood. She hadn’t been with a man, so her special cell died.

The man in black was not impressed.


A doctor told me that a girl is born with one to two million immature special cells in her body. Most of these immature cells will die. When she reaches reproductive age, only about 400,000 of the immature cells will remain. With each cycle of ovulation, approximately 400 immature cells will die and one will develop into a fully mature special cell capable of growing a person. If it doesn’t come in contact with one of the special man cells, no person grows and this cell will also die. He said these cycles will generally continue until a woman is in her late 40s or 50s.

The doctor said that a man produces approximately 1,500 special cells every second. In a single day, a man produces well over 100 million special cells. These special cells are very short-lived. Even if the man introduces them to a woman’s special cell, most of them will die.


I met a celibate man and a celibate woman. They both died at age 75. The woman was born with two million immature special cells. Over the course of her life, 400 of them matured to the point of person-growing capability. Over the course of the man’s life, he produced 3 trillion special cells, all of them capable of growing a person.

All of their special cells died.

Through their celibacy, the man and woman prevented their special cells from ever coming into contact.

I asked the man in black if the celibate people were mass murderers, but he said it only counts as murder if they put their special body parts together. I don’t know why.


A lady with a book seemed to disagree with the man in black. Her book said to be fruitful and multiply. I didn’t know what fruits and math had to do with it, but the lady said it was every person’s duty to make as many new people as possible.

I heard that the number of people in the world increased from one billion in 1804 to two billion 123 years later in 1927 to three billion 33 years later in 1960 to four billion 14 years later in 1974 to five billion 13 years later in 1987 to six billion 12 years later in 1999, to approximately seven billion 13 years later in 2012. Since the world has a limited amount of space and resources, the lady’s book may have given her bad advice.


But, wait; there’s more.


A fellow who ate plants told me that animal lives are special, too. He said that we should treat animals with the same respect we treat people. He said we ought not to eat animals. The plant-eating fellow then opened a can, scooped out the moist, stinking remains of a dead animal, and fed it to a dog, which he owned as a piece of property. The dog ate the dead animal meat.

I wondered why it was acceptable for the dog to eat the dead animal meat, but not for me. Maybe it was because the dog didn’t know any better, and it was therefore permissible for the fellow, who did know better, to supply the dead animal meat to the dog. Or perhaps it was because the dog was unable to survive without dead animal meat. I wondered, therefore, if the answer to the ethical question would change were my body unable to receive nourishment from anything but the carcass of a dead cow. What would be the ethical implications if my body could only receive nourishment from the meat of another human?

The plant-eating fellow was unable to answer my questions.


A fisher told me that it was OK to eat fish, because they didn’t have any feelings.

I asked a fish about the matter, but she disagreed. She didn’t answer me with her mouth, or even with her eyes, but the message still came across as the fisher peeled back her flesh, scooped out her innards, and extracted every bone from her body.


Yesterday, I swatted a fly. The fly was not hurting me. It posed no threat. It was just annoying. Now, it is dead. I killed it.

I wonder what gives me the right to decide that a living creature deserves to die just because I don’t like it. I’m uncomfortable with the implications.

I mourn the fly.


They tell me about the sanctity of life. I wonder what kinds of life this sanctity applies to.

If it is unacceptable to take the life of a cow or a bundle of human cells, I wonder why it would be acceptable to take the life of an apple. Is it simply because we like to think the apple has no consciousness and can feel no pain? I wonder if the plant-eating fellow would make an exception for a brain-dead chicken with no pain receptors.

A botanist told me that plants can perceive and react to moisture, light, gravity, touch, temperature, infections, parasites, chemicals, and the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. I wonder what we really know about a plant’s ability to experience other things.

Do we show arrogance and hubris by presuming to know what another living thing does or does not feel on the grounds that it fails to show a reaction comparable to the type of reaction we might have? Because the apple lacks a central nervous system, we deign to say that it has no capacity to experience pain or hold any opinion at all on its potential demise.

Having never been an apple, perhaps I lack the perspective to make such claims.


I saw a pair of lovers. There was also a flower, which could serve no purpose to either of the two. It could provide them no sustenance. Its existence in its present location had no negative consequences for the couple. But, still, the man plucked the flower from the ground, severing the stem through which it received nutrients absorbed by its roots, and handed it to the woman. The woman described this action as romantic.

The flower died.


A doctor told me that I had foreign life forms in my body. They were called bacteria, and they made me feel bad. He gave me medicine to help my body murder the life forms.

I thought about the sanctity of life, but I still don’t know what that means.

I took the medicine, and the life forms died.


It occurred to me that my life cannot continue to exist without causing the death of other life forms, whether they be animals, plants or bacteria. Almost all forms of life rely on the death of other life forms in order to continue their own existence.

Somebody tried to explain to me about the sanctity of life, but they were wearing a coat made from the hide of a dead cow.


I heard that viruses possess some, but not all, of the properties of life. I wonder how much sanctity that’s worth. I also wonder who gets to decide what properties a potential life form has to have before it counts.


I thought about the woman outside the clinic, the man in black, the doctor, the celibate couple, the lady with the book, the fellow who ate plants, the dog, the fisher, the fish, the fly, the apple, the botanist, the lovers, the bacteria, the viruses, and myself, and I tried to find the special line that separated the acceptable forms of death from the unacceptable.

I’m still looking.


I knew a man. His mother’s special cell combined with his father’s special cell, and the resulting mass of cells grew into a person. He took the lives of many plants and animals, his body killed many bacteria and viruses, and he overcame many odds to live a healthy and happy life into extreme old age.

Then, he died, anyway.


I heard that life is sacred, but I don’t know what that word means.

Views: 1255

Comment by MikeLong on June 15, 2014 at 10:42pm

Something is sacred if a "holy" book says it is.

I know or nowhere (at least in the Bible) that says that life is sacred. The Bible equates human life to dust, but not something sacred.

Perhaps there is a Bible scholar lurking who can tell us where it says in the holy books that life is sacred.

Comment by H3xx on June 15, 2014 at 11:13pm

That would make a great Children's book. Too bad it would probably get banned. That's another thing that the men in black like to do... Burn Books.

Comment by Ron Humphrey on June 16, 2014 at 4:40am

I, too, have very mixed feelings about taking of life.  I will not go out of my way to kill a living thing.  However I realize that living beings must die for me to live.  It is an interesting dilemma.

There is no answer except that is just the way it is.  

Comment by Zoey Nell on June 16, 2014 at 8:38am
@Ari E. S. I'm not generally a fan of death, but it is a natural part of life, and the line between bad death and OK death is a lot harder to pinpoint than some more simplistic beliefs would appear to indicate.

@MikeLong When I originally posted this on DeviantArt, a comment left by a religious bloke made reference to a couple of Bible verses, but their relation to the topic at hand struck me as a bit specious. His position basically amounted to this: all life is sacred, but some lives are more sacred than others. Not sure if he realized he was echoing Animal Farm.

@H3xx I think I would be weirdly flattered if anything I wrote was deemed worth burning.

@Ron Humphrey People generally agree that it's usually a bad idea to kill a fully formed human and that it's normally acceptable to eat a turnip, but there's an awful lot of gray area in the middle.

@Belle Rose Thanks.
Comment by Unseen on June 16, 2014 at 2:44pm

Death is part of life. No life, however short, is wasted. Everything is food for something else. If you put a dead human in the ground, s/he feeds worms and bacteria. If you cremate them, they turn into substances necessary for all forms of life. All life is short and, in the long run, pointless. When I say all life is short, the cosmologist Brian Cox once said that if one assigned one atom in the universe to each year of the universe's existence, one would run out of atoms in the universe before that year of absolute heat death was reached.

Viewed that way, there is very little difference between the life of a bacterium and the life of the oldest human ever. Whatever one person does or accomplishes, good or ill, will be moot or forgotten in an astonishingly short period of time. 

Comment by MikeLong on June 16, 2014 at 6:29pm

"life is sacred"

a comment left by a religious bloke made reference to a couple of Bible verses

Chapter and verse? Anyone? My machine-readable Bible does not contain the word, "sacred". What else should I search for?

Comment by Zoey Nell on June 16, 2014 at 7:41pm

@Maxwell Marovich, I appreciate the honesty. ;-) And, the science lesson. I might consider revising that section a bit if I can think of a more technically accurate way to acknowledge the point.

@MikeLong, His exact comment was this: "It is Almighty God who has determined through His word that life is sacred, sanctified, holy; and that the blood of each creature represents its soul, or life (Genesis 1:31; 9:1-7). However, the sacredness of life not made in the image of God is relative, that is, not absolute. That is why both humans and animals are permitted to feast on animal and plant life etc. That humans are the exception to the rule becomes evident when we consider John 3:16 (please read). Jesus died to buy us back from sin and death, such a thing is never said or applied to the lower forms of life (please also see Psalm 49:6-9). Hope this gives you another perspective to consider."

Comment by Ed on June 20, 2014 at 8:23am

Watching a documentary about life on the African plains or the struggle for specie's survival in the Amazon jungle allays any trepidation I have about the murderous cycle of life on our little planet. I viewed a giant dragonfly just the other day who had happened upon two interlocked mating butterflies. The dragonfly was munching away at the head of the one unfortunate butterfly while the other struggled to release itself, and finally did. A huge bit of irony there. The butterflies trying to procreate while the dragonfly helped itself to much needed nourishment. Death, whether premature or not, remains a necessary part of the cycle of life. Mother nature wouldn't have it any other way.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 20, 2014 at 12:19pm

Hm-mm, I clicked on the title intending to look for a place to say "Don't ask when life begins. Ask when the law recognizes that a life has begun."

I quickly realized that I was in over my head.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 20, 2014 at 12:19pm

Ed and others, re Mother nature wouldn't have it any other way.

I like to share the blame or credit with Ma and Pa Nature wouldn't have it any other way.


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