After some reflection, anyone is bound to object that ‘pro-life philosophy’ is as redundant a phrase as is ’round wheel’ or ‘flat plain’. And they would be right!
Still, there may be some merit to setting down a few of the obvious aspects of our common stance in favor of life and of free will.
Why do I add “free will”? Because no advocate of life would seek to curb someone’s freedom or its accompanying responsibilities any more than they would steal from you a responsibility and thereby a freedom. These are equal aspects of the same thing. It is by a sinister irony, therefore, that the advocates of death have adopted the motto “pro-choice”, and it is a measure of their short-sightedness not to have realized the irony. A “choice” that is based on ignorance, willed or imposed, is not a choice but a submission. Even more ridiculous, we have assented to their use of the epithet. Let us all, and immediately, adopt the motto “pro-choice” and have done with it.
Along the way, it is worth noting that we should do the same with any positive motto put forward by the advocates of death: if it is positive, it cannot but be pro-life, and therefore they have no right to it.
All who respect life have joy and mystery in their hearts. They share a deep sense that life in this world is itself basically paradoxical. For the world, and the rest of the universe of rocks and stones and trees, obeys the laws of entropy; whereas life, and especially human life, runs counter to all that. While the rest is running down, each life breathes new and fresh energy into that increasing chaos. The way of the world itself is death and decay. Small wonder, then, that those who are pro-life often seem a little otherworldly. For those who are simply neutral or are actively pro-death, are merely of the world, bound to it by their neutral or active expressions of entropy in their approach to existence.
This is worth pursuing a little further at least, for the pro-death urge is neither neutral nor passive. Like any enemy, it deserves attention, and study. It is of the world, entropic, turned inwards, and compounded of ignorance – death in a different form. For its advocates, death is not another kind of life, not the gateway to another life, not transcendent life or even a limit that defines this life; it is merely death, physics and chemistry. Life, thus, is a kind of death, simply a retarding of decay. The pro-death urge is the call of the wild, the call of the world, to merge with it and its processes, to be one with the universe – and so on. And it does go on, and the above is no caricature. This angry, prolonged adolescence, this malign infantilism has its causes and its worldly supports, and must be taken very seriously indeed.
The term, “pro-life”, does not simply designate one opinion on one subject: this is the heart of the matter. It is but one facet – if a conspicuous one- of something much larger. To say that one is “pro-life” is to apply against abortionism something already deeply-held and already penetrating every aspect of one’s existence. “Pro-life” is a way of life; it is to be of life, to affirm life and to express that affirmation in life. In a sense, then, to be alive is to be pro-life – but there seem to be degrees in this – but, again, it makes a good starting-point.
To return to our starting-point, the title, one had better ask two questions: one concerns “philosophy” and the other “life”. Now everything becomes slippery and elusive when you come to define it, and these two terms are no exception. But I noted at the outset that they are in some way synonymous.
Can one say “life is far from simple” without sounding an utter idiot? Physicists talk of “life” in matter as astronomers and astrologers used to – and there really is a music and resonance and vibration of atoms and particles. Biochemists, botanists, biologists… there is the realm of vegetable, insect, animal (and so on) life. And, at least as distinct from all of those are galaxies of grasshoppers, there is human life.
Human life, with which “pro-life” is primarily concerned, has perhaps forty or four hundred dimensions. I will mention four only. We have physical life – that in common with animals and vegetables, which forms we choose to imitate from time to time. We have social life – that also in common with animals, fish, birds, insects and perhaps dozens of other things (but let us draw the line short of plants: we must make some distinctions, somewhere). We have mental and intellectual life as well, in which clearly (to the sentient) we are unique. We have also spiritual life, in which too we re unique. Clearly, each of these four is a kind of freedom, of ability to extend oneself or go out of one’s little orbit and reach others, and each freedom is a responsibility, and each is a kind of love.
A pro-life is a life lived in the knowledge that life and love are synonymous. This knowledge is so deep that it almost defies explanation or discussion: it is a form of experience, a form of awareness as much as is vision pr touch. Love is also anti-entropic (how crude and inadequate the words!) in that it multiplies itself in going outwards: entropy means a turning inwards, as water turns inward on itself to rush drown a drain. Each pro-life, therefore, is a life lived as fully as possible, in as many ways as possible; that is, by loving in as many ways as possible; and each way implies and paves the way for the others whether we ever get there or not: physical, social, intellectual, spiritual.
Obviously, living life fully does not mean mad pursuit of novelty or excess, nor a hedonistic binge of moderation or even of self-denial. It takes a good dose of common sense and, I am sure, a pretty active sense of humour – or else one is liable to begin taking one’s self too seriously, and that is a turning-inward.
There are at least two kinds of inward journey (all right: or twenty or two hundred). That of the contemplative is accompanied by great love and is of life: the other is barren and despairing, although it may masquerade as fun. As the sage remarked, a man all wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. The more in-turned, the smaller. One may simply be selfish; another directing his or her love inward only (hence it shrinks and withers); another exists only physically and carefully shuns his or her spiritual or intellectual life, or denies these, and so on.
Again, the subject is widening to include the world, or at least its occupants – so it is time to return to the title. Philosophy, at root, means simply love of wisdom. That draws on love, and also intellectual life and (because wisdom has to be passed on) social life. And so, “philosophy” is in some ways synonymous with “life”.
Any turning away from any of the dimensions of life or of love is a turning towards death. So too, it would seem, is any refusal to embrace life, to grow or expand or change. Ignorance, in the sense of ignoring or cutting oneself off from life or love or both, is the enemy of life – which does not deny the paradox of the hermit or holy recluse, but rather points to the worldly recluse of various ilk. That recluse may be one out of pride or anger, envy or greed, or of timidity or fear – and all of these are a kind of pain and sorrow.
Know the enemy. The biggest disease today is not cancer or TB or VD or herpes; it is loneliness – the feeling of being unwanted, uncared-for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity (which is Latin for love), the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbour.
Of this new and spreading evil and its causes, more at another time. But it might be useful to notice that love, the emotion, differs from its shadow, sentimentalism. As an emotion, love is integral and is one of our basics forms of awareness, at the least the equal of logic, as the brain surgeons now tell us. But the sentiment is the tawdry imitation: it is simply a drawing-out of an emotion into a specialized esthetic for kicks and for thrills. That process destroys the integrity of the real thing. It is a technique for segregating life – or living- into compartments, to take them one at a time. It is ultimately, the consumer-approach to life. But life is multi-leveled and complex, not simple; the technique smacks of death.
Alexander Pope showed well enough the effect of sentimentalizing when he warned,
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Updating it, one might begin, “Abortion’s a monster…” Where, then, on the scale described on the last line, is our society now? The sentimentalist endures, then pities…
Loneliness is now our greatest disease, Make no mistake: it is a disease. How many of those who say they are pro-death are that only superficially, and beneath that are sufferers from this new, insidious disease? This loneliness is not the sentimental or romantic sort. Is it not, then at least in part, real fear of death?
How many cry “every child a wanted child” when they really mean “every parent a wanted parent”?
Why do life, and love, today instill such fear?