Sunday, May 28, 2006

nu - what would YOU do?

did you see the story this week about the death of the everest climber?

a british mountaineer named david sharp collapsed along a well-travelled route to the summit. they think that about 40 people walked right past him. a couple stopped to check on him, and said that he was about to die and there was nothing that they could have done. one group gave him some oxygen.

so there you are, climbing the mountain. conditions are very difficult for you, with the lack of oxygen up there, and all the dangers inherent in such an expedition. you see someone by the side of the road. they are clearly in trouble.


the article i read on yahoo noted the following:

a. sir edmund hillary (who with sherpa tensing was officially to first to make it to the top of this mountain in 1953) said it was "horrifying" that a climber would leave a dying man.

b. lydia bradley, who in 1988 became the first woman to reach the top of this mountain without extra oxygen, said that "if you're going to go to everest ... i think you have to accept responsibility that you may end up doing something that's not very ethically nice ... you have to realise that you're in a different world"

c. apparently, trips up the mountain have become so commercialised, and climbers pay tens of thousands of dollars for their trip of a lifetime, so that the guides are under extreme pressure to get their clients to the top.

finally, a guy from the team that stopped to share some of their oxygen said "the trouble is that at 8500 metres it is extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone keep anyone else alive".

so, nu, what would you do?

my instinct is to say my god of course i would stop. at the same time, i have not been in that position, so it would probably be more accurate for me to say that i hope that i would stop.

next i turn to the texts of my tradition. two stand out immediately:

there is the concept of pikuach nefesh - that saving of life is an obligation that over-rules commandments connected to the sabbath and other festivals. and thus, all the more so when it is an ordinary day!

however, the talmud does state that if it is a choice between one's self and another, it is permissible to choose yourself.

secondly, there is the teaching from the talmud that to save one life is as if you have saved the world, and to destroy one life is as if you have destroyed the world. i believe the wording is almost exactly the same when you read this teaching from the qur'an.

falling asleep ... will continue later ...

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