Thursday, September 20, 2012

meanings of life

Hal Pepinsky,,
September 20, 2012
                These days I’m exchanging a lot of emails with a beloved cousin who is a Catholic priest.  Somehow, recently, we got back into whether abortion is murder.  My cousin asked me how I could claim to respect life and not oppose taking an innocent life.  In the moment, I responded that I don’t distinguish taking innocent lives from taking guilty ones.  And I told him that I thought he and I meant two different things by the “life” we hold sacred, and that I wanted to think my own definition over and try putting a straight answer into a blog.  So Cousin Nick, this one’s for you.
                I just came back from the Thursday singalong at my mom’s nursing home up the way.  She sleeps a lot in her wheel chair, but lifts her head and looks me in the eyes when I sing a love song she taught me, “Girl of My Dreams.”  The nursing director, Kristine, and I play guitars and harmonize on old time favorites.  I feel the vibration as my eyes lock with other singers’ and with eyes of those who otherwise sit still.  I smile and laugh with those who sing and clap.  By the time our half hour together ends, my voice is strong and clear, and I feel a surge of energy that carries me smiling through the day.  To my thinking, I get a dose of synergy in my relations with others.  The music we create together is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.  These are expressions of the life force I hold dear.   It is the force that brings human lives into harmony in all our relations.  Within the lifetime of each of us, the force is the homeostasis that fends off bodily decay.  Indeed, it appears to me to be the force that gives form and substance to all matter.  That force embraces, energizes and empowers us when we let it happen, as we let go of being transfixed by striving to get somewhere in particular.
                We can’t kill the force that created us and turns our lives and bodies into food for future generations, but we can obstruct and “correct” it by trying to make ourselves and others get somewhere or do something or be somebody.  That amounts to trying to make instruments of ourselves and others to reaching some earthly goal.  Our lives depend on cooperation in trying to get jobs done;  trying to get it done to the same specifications regardless of who gets hurt or left out is unsustainable—too entropic, too socially heated, wasteful of human energy.  It isn’t death; the life we embody precedes conception and lives through us when life as we know it dies.
                I don’t know one way to define murder.  I know people go to great lengths to stop murder by killing those they blame, including people who call each other murderers.  As Karagwa Byanima, a Ugandan freedom fighter who entered parliament when Idi Amin was overthrown, assured me, I speak as one spared the killing and torture she had endured.  I feel I have no right to judge people for killing because I can’t distinguish right killing from wrong killing in my own mind and heart.  Assuredly, though, “murder” is an occasion for taking what safety measures one can first, then attending the bereaved and killer for the sake of building what harmony one can out of loss and threat.  That is the only way I know to honor and embrace life in action.  And so, dear cousin, I feel unqualified to have an opinion on whether abortion is murder, or to distinguish good from evil.  Love and peace--hal


  1. Thank you dear cousin, I truly appreciate you sentiments, thoughts, and the love expressed. However, I never said “murder” and would never use the word to describe a person who had an abortion or those complicit in it. For an abortion to be murder, one has to know they are killing an innocent human being, intend to do it, and then do it. I say innocent to differentiate from killing in self-defense, a just war, etc. I would never judge a person in that way because I don’t know their thoughts, intentions, knowledge about the beginning of life, and other factors known only to God. I can say the act is intrinsically morally evil, but not that the person is guilty/culpable of murder, i.e., a murderer. A few minutes ago my priest friend gave me a penance to read the 7th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which begins: 1 "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. 2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you…”

    The Rev. Fr. Irby C. "Nick" Nichols

  2. I'd also like to ad that it would rare for a pregnant woman to say to herself, "I know abortion is the intention killing of innocent human life. I really don't care about persons in the womb and am glad for this opportunity. I really don't like babies anyway and this abortion will save me from raising this child. I don't care what God says or thinks, so I'm calling Planned Parenthood ASAP." Most young girls are scared, confused, receive mixed messages from friends, family, and our culture. It takes knowledge, wisdom, character, faith, and courage to choose life when it's not convenient, unplanned, or will disrupt one's life. This is why my parish and others choose to support Project Gabriel. This organization helps young women during their pregnancy and after they give birth. Help comes in the form of finances, housing, food, clothing, medical care, and offers a mentor to walk with the young mother until she is ready and able to live w/o help. It's not enough to merely be Pro-Life. Action is required to help those who have few alternatives. As the years pass, such women will see the miracle and blessing a child will bring into their lives. Mothers cooperate in the gift of life that others never understand. Such children are a precious gift made in the image and likeness of the Creator with eternal souls who are destined to receive the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. My parish also supports Project Rachael to help women who have had abortions and are grieving or are suffering in a variety ways resulting from their choice. Such women are often tortured from emptiness in their hearts and souls. With over 42 million abortions worldwide each year (World Health Organization estimate for 2003), there is no question that our entire society has been negatively affected.

    The Rev. Fr. Irby C. "Nick" Nichols

  3. There are situations when we felt helpless and then it is the almighty God who is there for us. So whenever I felt anything like that the Bible is there for reference...