The price of life? Worth by Max Borenstein

The price of life? Worth by Max Borenstein

I wonder what were the things that got you through Covid and especially your lockdown evenings? I was glad of Netflix and their extraordinary range of (possibly eccentric) choices that seek to influence my viewing ! When this film was suggested I wasn’t immediately clear what it was about but complied and was not disappointed ! It is harrowing and illuminating and emotional in equal measure. Its essence might be captured here : in all dimensions of living – we human beings need to be seen and valued.

It may not be an accident that Netflix have chosen to promote this particular film amidst the aftermath of the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Any viewer brings into this piece of cinematography a combination of a personal, the spiritual and the political. What was the story of all those lives lost in the 9/11 attacks on America? What happened to the victims families? How did a nation seek to rebuild itself amidst such utter devastation? What does healing mean?

If this life, unique and precious – loved and cherished by those close to us – was abruptly ended through a major tragedy how would those left deal with his trauma? Is it ever possible for us to flourish and hold our fragilities, the dark places of pain and unresolved fragility in some kind of equilibrium? What does it mean to befriend death, feel pain and the vulnerability that grief inevitably brings us?

I spend a good deal of yesterday on the road. Thankful for the space to think and reflect on the relatively empty motorways I passed the debris of what looked like a nasty collusion. It made me wonder. What if my life were to end unexpectedly? What would be left behind? How much untidiness would be left? All of our living is perhaps by definition messy, complicated and unfinished.┬áMuch remains hidden – perhaps even to ourselves ? This life is botprecious and vulnerable. I write as we continue to reflect on the murder of Sir David Amess.

What is the price tag on a life ?

The story …

This film tells the story of the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund and the struggle between the USA Congress and the 9/11 families to come to a settlement agreement. Multiple stakeholders compete for agency. There are stories that are so very painful to tell. The grief and suffering is overwhelming. Politics, Industry, Law, Anger, Justice are all worked out in the stories that we are drawn into. A deadline of two years for the compensation pay out sets the pace, intensity and drama of the film.

Some reviewers highlight the sense of being overwhelmed by the intelligence and intentions of this film in their criticisms of the director Sara Colangelo and writer Max Borenstien. Reviewers argue that Worth retreats from some of the core moral and spiritual questions. Is a teachers life worth less than a ‘high flying CEO’? How do we value a life and its achievements by placing a price on a compensation figure for settlement ? If any us died today what would we leave behind? What do you think your life is worth in pounds and pence ?

Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg the lawyer searching for a solution

Feinberg (played skilfully by Michael Keaton) , attempts to champion the processes of the Law by making a plea for detachment and objectivity. The process by which his team come to a solution is harrowing. This is complicated and enlarged by our entering into the fractured human lives that are so intensely painful. Very quickly it is obvious that the lawyers rationality and their text books are not going to work

So what is any life worth ?

A good film always leaves questions unanswered and invites us into a different space of perception and judgement. The organising question of worth remains hanging in the air. It isn’t clear that justice has been done despite the compensation agreement that was reached in December 2003. The pain continues. Today we might take confront from the fact that the memory of those many victims are memorialised and cherished. However, we seem no closer to peace. Grief is embedded in the memory forever. What might it take for us to build a better world for human flourishing ?

Questions remain ( and always will ) about politics, power, structure and hierarchy. In these questions we fragile, bounded, vulnerable human beings continue ( or don’t) struggle in making sense. The film opens some of that up – but the responsibility of what it might mean to value ourselves and others continues. How might we flourish in this? How might we value the worth of each other for human flourishing?

That remains a key question I believe for Sarum College and our work.

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