Is Life Worth Living?

Donald DeMarco

Life is Worth Living was the title of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's immensely successful television program that debuted on February 12, 1952. Sheen changed the original title of the program, Is Life Worth Living? to its more positive sounding form. He later wrote a series of five books under his preferred title. No doubt he thought that the worthiness of living should not be a question, but a firm answer.

Today, whether life is worth living has once again become a question. When we consider the rise of suicides, the prevalence of abortion, and the increasing acceptance of euthanasia, Bishop Sheen's original title is now very much in focus. A single example illustrates the point. Euthanasia was legalized in Canada in 2016 in response to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that criminalizing euthanasia violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since its legalization, the number of euthanasia deaths has grown dramatically each year from 1,018 in 2016 to 10,064 in 2021. The latter figure represents an increase of 34.7% from the 7,446 deaths in 2020. These statistics were unimaginable back in 1952.

In his Choruses from The Rock, T. S. Eliot asks, "Where is the Life that we have lost in the living?" Paradoxically, it is a question that contains its own answer. The capital L refers to God. Although, according to the poet, people go through the motion of living, their life loses it worth, or its flavor when it is separated from God. Human beings do not seem to get the most out of their gifts. Eliot also asks: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in our knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information." He concludes the first section of his poem by stating: "The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries/ Bring us farther from God and nearer to Dust."

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