What Is the Worth of a Human Being?
A Writing of Uncle Morty
Yes we've published this before. But it seems like a really good time to publish it again.
Your old Uncle Morty is old and tired and dead, though not without the empathy that remains in the empty brain and abstract heart of anyone who has ever worn a suit of flesh. His previous embodiments leave him still puzzling as to why the living seem to value the miracle of being human so very little. Even when they can be led to believe that they themselves might have some intrinsic value they seem always unlikely to give that benefit of the doubt to others. I will give you a few scraps of reasonable advice that I myself found when I walked among the living. It was expressed by two of the best men I have ever known, Kilgore Trout and George MacDonald.
Now you may protest, “Uncle Morty, Kilgore Trout wasn’t real! He was a character in books. He was made up.” And so on.
All I can say is that being true matters more than being real. And if humans could grasp that they might be a good bit better off than they are. (And you may not know of George MacDonald at all…but he was both real and true.)
If you’ve never read God Bless You, Mr, Rosewater, you should. Even if you have, maybe you should look at it again, especially right now. It’s the story of a rich man who moves to a small town in Indiana to care for the plain and “useless” people there, through all of their troubles, depression, alcoholism, ugliness, and squalor, in big ways and small by simply not judging them and giving them what they need on a day to day basis, and also by making sure their volunteer fire department is extremely well-funded – more on that later. In short, Eliot Rosewater, did not measure the worth of the inhabitants of the run down and sad town of Rosewater as a percentage of someone else’s profit.
At any rate, here’s Kilgore Trout elucidating the beauty of Eliot Rosewater’s social experiment, his treatment of everyone no matter how “worthless” as a human being, someone who needs love and attention:
The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?
In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine too. So—if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.
Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn’t here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel.
And here’s the bit about the fire department, explained by Kilgore Trout:
Your devotion to volunteer fire departments is very sane, too, Eliot, for they are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his contemptible house catch fire, will see his enemies put the fire out. And, as he pokes through the ashes for remains of his contemptible possessions, he will be comforted and pitied by no less than the Fire Chief.
Trout spread his hands. “There we have people treasuring people as people. It’s extremely rare. So from this we must learn.”
Here’s much the same thing from another perspective in a quote from George MacDonald.
On the rich young ruler
I do not suppose that the youth was one whom ordinary people would call a lover of money. I do not believe he was covetous, or desired even the large increase of his possessions. I imagine he was just like most good men of property: he valued his possessions-looked on them as good. I suspect that in the case of another, he would have regarded such possession almost as a merit, something he deserved. Like most of my readers, he would probably have valued a man more who had some means, and valued him less who had none. Most people have no idea how entirely they will one day alter their judgment, or have it altered for them, in this respect. How much better for them if they alter it themselves.
Mortimer Richard Wolcott is, quite frankly, not very forthcoming with his bio. We're not even sure if that's his real name. His work during his previous embodiments is not something he'll willingly share. He also won't explain why he's currently assigned to the world of the living. His deathography only somewhat clear from the point at which he showed up at Sacred Chickens Farm for a Halloween Party and never left. He is occasionally pressed into service to help write the blog and you can search the archives here for his wisdom. He enjoys hanging out with cats, the occasional cocktail, and dispensing sarcastic remarks to the living.