Life is precious
From the SolSeedCreed
- Life is precious.
- It has always been precious,
- it will always be precious.
This asserts that nothing needs to change for Life to become "worthy". Even if we had more wars, more hunger, and more systemic injustice, Life would still be precious! This is a very 'power of now' way of thinking ... basically a statement of "There's nothing wrong here."
Life is not perfect, but it is still worthy of veneration
Life puts atoms together in very interesting ways. One configuration of atoms gives us an ant carrying a leaf many times larger than itself. From another configuration we get an eagle slipping gracefully through the sky. Yet another configuration becomes a person who feels, thinks, and loves.
Without Life, the energy from our sun simply bounces off the planet. Life literally collects the energy Sol sends to earth, and stores it up for future use. Plants take energy from Sol and convert it into denser, more storable forms. The sugars and fats that our bodies burn are little pools of energy that originally came from our sun.
Ants carrying, eagles soaring, people loving … none of these would exist without Life’s awesome capacity for organizing matter.
Life is not perfect. This is obvious to anyone who has experienced cruelty or misfortune. And yet, Life is the only game in town. Without Life the Earth would be just another dead ball of rock.
Life cannot exist without death. This means that the alternative to death is the absence of Life. Imagine that everything that had ever lived was still alive today. There is not space on the earth for all those creatures. The only way there could be space for them all is if at some point in time they had stopped reproducing altogether. But reproduction is what powers evolution. Without reproduction there would be nothing but simple primordial slime, barely metabolizing in a stagnant stinking sea. But not to worry, there would be no-one to complain about the smell :-)
Life is also intrinsically messy. There is in the wake of every living organism a stream of refuse. In the words of Paul Krafel, consuming things we need and dumping our waste is an ancient and venerable part of Life. Consumption and dumping is an essential part of Life.
Life is what it is ... and it is worthy of veneration!
More or less alive
There was a time in my life when the most common thing you'd hear from me was a sigh. Sitting on a couch in our living room every minute or two I'd sigh. Life was futile, tasteless and bland.
During this time of sighs I was a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Rochester. I was working on interesting problems and getting paid to learn. Two years earlier I had married a woman that I adored and who loved me too. On the surface it seemed like I should be relishing my life. Yet there I sat. Sighing on my couch.
This "sighing" period of my life lasted for months. When I look back at this time, I'm struck by how little gumption I had. It took all of my reserves to meet the minimums. I was doing what was required, and no more. Any moment when I wasn't acting on some direct obligation was spent in a vegetative funk, punctuated only by the occasional sigh.
Things suddenly got better when I began treatment for depression. The contrast was dramatic. I was full of ideas and brimming over with energy to try new things. In my new state of anti-depressant induced mania, everything I ate was incredibly tasty. Every new idea I had seemed as if it would change the world. Each day was full of zest and I charged around inhaling life.
The contrast between these two adjacent periods of my life has made a lasting impression on how I see the world. I went from a barely alive vegetative fugue to a frenetic mania that oozed life. I went from sucking the life out of those who had the misfortune to be in the same room with me, to pumping up those I encountered and filling them with a sense of new possibilities for their lives.
These back to back periods of stark contrast opened my eyes to how I, the same person, could be more or less alive at different points in time. Since then I've noticed that this same thing often happens to me on a day to day basis. Some days I am powerful, self-expressed, and the world brims with opportunity. Other days I am weak, stifled, and trapped in a dead-end life.
This phenomenon of more or less life is not limited to individuals. I noticed the same dynamic at an internet startup that I worked at for a number of years. Now it was not just an individual who was more or less alive depending upon the day, but a company composed of many individuals.
Have you experienced the same phenomenon in your own life? Do you remember a time when you were working with a group and the experience was fun and playful --- full of life. Ideas came easy and everyone seemed full of energy to carry them out. Compare that with a meeting during which someone kills the energy in the group with a mean-spirited comment.
We're used to thinking of life as a binary property. Plants and animals are alive until they die. But maybe it makes more sense to think of life as a continuous property. An individual organism, a group of organisms, and indeed the body of all life can be more or less alive from moment to moment.
To make things better would be to increase the amount of Life in the system (quality and quantity), but not to fundamentally make Life something different than it is.