"...I had thought much about the difference between creatures and machines. But I had never so clearly understood and felt that difference as when [my brother] was in recovery after his heart surgery, when he was attached to many machines and was dependent for breath on a respirator. It was impossible then not to see that the breathing of a machine, like all machine work, is unvarying, an oblivious regularity, whereas the breathing of a creature is ever changing, exquisitely responsive to events both inside and outside the body, to thoughts and emotions. A machine makes breaths as a machine makes buttons, all the same, but every breath of a creature is itself a creature, like no other, inestimably precious."
—Berry, Wendell. "Health is membership." Another Turn of the Crank 86 (1995): 90.
Thanks to the friend who introduced me to this essay. It reminds me of this more familiar quote:
"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel…"
—Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2
And, thus, perhaps, this call to action by one who learned the hard way:
"Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
—Marley's Ghost, A Christmas Carol