Why is life worth living? Okay, for me, I would say…well, Groucho Marx, to name one thing, and Willie Mays and the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony and Louis Armstrong’s recording of ‘Potato Head Blues’, and um, Swedish movies, naturally. Sentimental Education by Flaubert, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne. Oh, the crabs at Sam Wo’s, and um Tracy’s face. (sigh)
In his acclaimed movie, Manhattan, Woody Allen asks a very direct question. “Why is life worth living?” His monologue answer is above.
Following his line of thinking, I would answer the introduction to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Miles Davis playing anything from his recording of Kind of Blue, the creative, impulsive art of Jackson Pollack, the Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and the fish taco at the Avila Farmer’s Market in California. Although all of these items bring immense pleasure into my life, they have nothing to do with why my life is worth living.
The philosopher in me has debated, pondered and studied the meaning and purpose of life ad infinitum but I have not previously examined life from the perspective of this question. Allen answered his own non-rhetorical thought the only way it can be answered, from a personal point of reference. There is not a universal answer to this question so each individual has his/her own solution.
Why is (my) life worth living?
My mother made life worth living because I could not die while she was alive. I could never put her through that much pain, for I know the pain of loss and I am told there is no greater pain than the loss of one’s child. I do not know if this is true and I do not choose to find out, but mom asked us not to die before her.
In those moments of deep despair, her voice was the only reason I am still here today. Mom’s words brought order to my chaos and calm to the turbulence in my world. When I had doubts, she offered options. When I lost the one I loved, she gave me more love and asked me not to die before her.
I tried to prepare myself for the day when I could no longer call her on the phone or knock on the door of our childhood home and have her answer. I tried to prepare myself for the day I would no longer get her letters in my mail box, although I still check, hoping for a previously lost or delayed letter to appear. I tried to prepare myself for the day I would no longer see her in her human flesh. I tried to prepare myself for the day she would no longer request that I not die before her.
The person who made my life worth living is no longer here. But I am here, and I continue to live with this love she placed inside my soul. It is this love that makes my life worth living, still.