Remember how precious life is
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on May 15, 2006.
Late last month, our good friends in town, Ram Dhan Khalsa and his family, lost their son and brother Ranjit following heart surgery. Ram Dhan said, "It makes you realize how precious life is." It can happen to any of us at any time, he said, and so it's important to appreciate our loved ones.
Ranjit is known to many in the valley as the computer guy, and known to some as "Gonzo." Despite his life-long heart condition, he excelled in computers, alternately impressing and irking his high school teachers years ago. He maintained his own computer business in town.
Even though physically Ranjit couldn't always do what he wanted, he participated in local firearms instruction courses with the Grand Valley Training Club. Ram Dhan is an NRA Training Counselor with the Club, a program that has fostered many solid friendships in the Valley. Ranjit also gained a reputation for competitive long-distance shooting.
The Khalsas are easily recognized around town by their generally-white dress and headwear. As far as we know, the Khalsas are the only Sikh family in town; at least they're the only Sikhs we know. Sikhism is a religion originating in India. While it might seem eccentric by local standards, that hasn't stopped the Khalsas from becoming valued members of our community. Ranjit was cremated in a Sikh ceremony in California following his surgery at UCLA.
Ranjit and your younger author (we'll use first names for convenience) were just a couple months apart in age. While Ari and Ranjit went to different local high schools, they met through a common interest in computers. While Ari was figuring out how to plug in his then-dazzling Amiga, Ranjit was building his own computer. The two met occasionally after Ram Dhan and your elder author, Linn, became friends.
Linn also talked Ranjit into joining the Masons. The three tenets of Masonry are friendship, morality, and brotherly love, and Ranjit exemplified all three of these. It was particularly interesting to watch the friendship that developed between Ken Dotson and Ranjit -- Ken, the elderly Mason with big computer problems -- and Ranjit, the young "computer guy" and new Mason. Ranjit spent many hours teaching Ken to use the computer and keeping it running well. Some of Ranjit's clients even handed him the keys to their offices so he could work on their computers after business hours.
It turns out that Ranjit died the very day that Ari was traveling across the country to New York. Ari heard the sad news upon return, when he reflected on some of the broader themes of human life.
The American Museum of Natural History houses the Rose Center for Earth and Space. This contains a spiral walkway that's supposed to trace the history of the universe. According to the displays, the universe (in its present state) is about 13 billion years old. The Earth formed over four billion years ago, and within a few hundred million years life appeared. About a half-billion years ago, complex animals appeared.
People have been around perhaps for only a couple hundred thousand years or so. Recorded human history is only around 30,000 years old, and the domestication of crops is only around 10,000 years old.
The end of the spiral walk shows the relative length of human civilization, if the spiral walk represents the span of our universe. Human civilization counts for a hair's width. An employee of the museum pointed out the line and said, "Hopefully we can extend it."
Human life is a wondrous gift. And, as the death of a friend reminds us, each individual human life is unique and irreplaceable. This is not a cause for despair, but rather a reminder to celebrate life and make the most out of our limited time.
After leaving the museum, Ari went with his wife and a friend to Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood. Now there is a giant fence surrounding a pit in the ground. This serves as an obvious reminder of the anti-life ideology of Islamic totalitarianism.
Yet it is now also a construction site. A new building will rise from the ashes. To one side of the site, cars pass by on crowded streets. A hotel on the other side features a sign that says, "Open for business." People walk past purposefully, chatting on their cell phones. Most noticeable about Ground Zero now is not the death that resulted from the terrorist attacks, but instead the life springing up all around it.
Aristotle's best-known syllogism begins with the observation, "All men are mortal." The universality of it hardly lessens the pain of losing a loved one. It does remind us to make the most of our time here. We'll miss you, Gonzo.