The Value of the Living

Somber thoughts with which to begin the Summer.

This post came about for several reasons. The most “real” influence is due to something I have written about on here: the passing of my paternal grandmother, now two years removed. In talking to another family member about this, we ended up agreeing on a perhaps morbid bit of practicality: she only had time to either visit my still-living grandfather, or pay respects to my grandmother’s remains, not both. She chose the former and I agreed with her. It reminded me of a line spoken by Mordin Solus in Mass Effect, which goes, “focus on the living. Too late to help the dead.” The dead and gone ought to be respected and remembered, for that is how they remain alive with us, but those who are fully among the living should take priority.

The second inspiration for this post was me replaying Final Fantasy VII for the first time in many years. The game is old, but nonetheless I apologize in advance for having to divulge a major spoiler to make a point:

SPOILER

 

 

A certain character in the story (Aerith) dies and there is nothing to be done about it. The typical gaming attitude, which often puts gameplay survival and optimization above reacting to the story in an organic fashion, tells me that it is a waste to sink time and resources into developing that doomed character’s combat proficiency, and to explore her backstory. When this thought made its way to my frontal cortex, I challenged it. I thought, “wait, how could investing time and effort into a person that you care for ever be a waste? If we knew the time and place of a friend’s death, would that really stop us from loving them?” I searched within and it didn’t take long for me to say “no” to that question, and I hope the same can be said of you who are reading this.

It’s easy, so, so easy, to become complacent to take things for granted, to become so absorbed in your own problems, your job, or other things, that we forget to take that extra time to stay connected with the friends and family that matter most to us. When I feel complacency sink in, I remind myself that I am not promised a tomorrow with anyone I care about. The impermanence of existence is the most terrifying thing I can comprehend. The only way to fight it is to make your mark on the world and make sure that the people who matter to you, know it beyond doubt.

We don’t know when our friends won’t get to come back.

So yes, I will still spend as much time with Aerith as possible in Final Fantasy VII, and this fictional character’s sacrifice not only touches my heart deeper than ever, it reaches through the screen and reminds me that the time available with those who matter most to us is immeasurably valuable, whether we know when the end is coming or not.

FIN

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