I woke up in Paris on my 13th birthday to a continental breakfast of chocolate croissants, soft cheeses and hot chocolate. My dad was stationed in Europe at the time and we traveled to France for a weekend trip.
Sunlight flooded in through sheer curtains, while the soundtrack from a bustling, Parisian alleyway played outside our hotel room window.
The trip was full of sidewalk cafes and metro rides, bookstore kitties and cathedral visits, but one place in particular stands out in my memory: The Louvre.
One of the world’s largest museums, The Louvre would take days to truly digest, and I’m sure I walked through most of it bored, distracted and wondering when lunchtime was. But I do remember when we happened upon one of the museums most famous attractions, The Mona Lisa.
I remember it because, as a 13-year-old, I was particularly underwhelmed.
It was smaller than I realized it would be. Tucked inside a glass case behind a velvet rope that sat in front of a group of about 100 tourists. That’s the most famous piece of art in the world? I wondered honestly.
I’m sure much of my impression was based on ignorance and teenage boredom — but nonetheless, it is an example of how a work of art can seem invaluable to many and completely blah to others. Whether we could argue that this perspective is shaped by education, life experience, or maybe even “good taste,” much of what we value in the realm of artistic expression is subjective. And my 13-year-old self, whether I am to be pitied or not, was more in awe of Paris’ pastries than Leonardo da Vinci.
I remembered that trip today when reading a medical journal about prenatal testing and Down syndrome. As I read the doctor’s words, I realized: this is talking about human beings as though our value were as subjective as pieces of art in a Parisian museum.
The article implied that some of us have value and are worth admiring and protecting — and that others, who may not be considered masterpieces because of disability or a propensity for medical issues — are not valuable.
How untrue it is.
The great thing about being human is that no matter what the world says is most valuable at any given moment, we still each remain an imperfectly perfect masterpiece. Not because we meet some societal standard of beauty or brilliance, but because we are human: and that is enough.
Prenatal testing is a wonderful means of learning a small portion of what may affect someone in life — but it is just that. It is by no means a measuring stick for determining the value of someone’s life.
Because the truth is: we are all masterpieces.
“All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” — Pope Francis