Life! What is it? We all know inside of us what life feels like, what it does for us, we would not be alive without it. But what is life? Can life even be known? The best dictionary definition I can find reads: The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continuous change preceding death. Does that definition work for you? It does not work for me, especially since it does not refer to the situation of coming into being through splitting of cells (mitosis), growing from a spore, growing from a seed, breaking out of an egg. or even a cocoon, live birth, and/or cloning, (the last being done in laboratories, not naturally, though we don’t know yet for sure if clones will produce real and conscious life). However, while I agree with the above sense of the definition of life more or less wholeheartedly, I find it descriptive, but not definitive. To me it describes what we can do with life, but it does not get to the roots of what life actually is. This inability to express what life is instead of what it does is probably why I have spent most of my life from the time I was born until this very moment as I write this post to try to discover if I can better define what life is, or if it is even possible to define it using the English language, which is my mother tongue, and the only language I can use with any confidence.
Why am I wasting my life chasing this very elusive knowledge? Because I need to know. And why am I not doing my work in a laboratory, like a true scientist? Because I believe life is not natural to our earthly plane of existence, and science can only describe that which is natural to the earth, or, in larger terms, what is natural to our universe…
SPIRITUAL LIFE–AS I BELIEVE IT TO BE
I cannot say that I fully understand biological life, but I really don’t have to. We have scientists who do all that work for me, and people who put that knowledge on the internet, and all I have to do to read it is ask the right question. But is biological life the full story of life on earth? In the universe? Or in the cosmos? The cosmos? What do I mean when I say the cosmos? Wikipedia describes the cosmos as the universe, and says it is orderly. I disagree with their concept, but I can do that, because I am approaching the cosmos through a philosophical viewpoint. So, when I use the word cosmos, this is what I mean: All places or non-places where life can and does exist, including the universe in which for sure biological life exists, as it does on earth, but also places where non-biological, possibly energy-based life can and does exist. As to an orderly cosmos, I prefer to think of the cosmos as a place where order and chaos exist simultaneously hand-in-metaphorical-hand. In other words, everything–everywhere. The universe, in its turn, is a place where physical (biological) life does exist, but where spiritual life co-exists with the physical. Physical life within the universe presents itself as orderly, the result of biological evolution. Chaos exists here too in the fact there is no order by which we can predict what evolution can or will create. Evolution follows a random course, searching without consciousness, most probably for a perfect lifeform. Humans are not it!
I also mentioned spiritual life above, by which l mean the connection of all living beings, one to all other beings, by virtue of the life inside them, and whatever that life is. And, going back to the start of this essay, this is the life I am searching to define. Not biological life, but spiritual life. IMO, spiritual life also includes the force that makes our bodies move to our direction. Spiritual life is the driver that compels biological life to be born, to act, to propogate, and to try to find purpose before dying. And it not only causes change, it requires us to change. It takes our experiences, displays them to us, and asks, “What now?”
Looking at spiritual life from another direction, there seems to be no way to measure spiritual life, its weight is negligible, if not zero. It has no measurable energy, although there is the possibility that it is married to our brain waves. One of the problems, though, is that we humans like to believe we are the most highly developed species on earth. And we base this belief only on ourselves. We have no way of knowing otherwise, because we have no way of communicating with most other species, and knowing exactly what they think of us. I, personally, am glad we cannot communicate with them. But i also wish we could!
Being a cat lover, who presently lives with 5 cats, I can see how intelligent they are, but I cannot always recognize their feline intelligence. I can understand where their human-type intelligence connects with mine: I have one cat who loves to bring me toys, most of which I am not supposed to touch. But one particular toy I am not only supposed to touch, I am supposed to throw it, so she can fetch it. She plays this game until she tires of it, at which time she hides the toy until she is ready to play Fetch again. But another cat likes to have me groom him, which is definitely a cat comfort action. He starts by jumping on a counter and making head-butt motions to me. If I bend my face down to his, he starts with a head-butt, then licks my mustache and goatee. When first he did this I thought he was grooming me, but his following actions decried this idea. He would turn his face to one side or the other and wait. If I did nothing he would give me a pissed-off look and leave. But, if I reciprocated his efforts, he started to purr. The more I washed his face and head with my whiskers which he would keep moistened, the louder he would purr, and the longer he would stay. Generally he does this at least once a day. Grooming is a feline comfort action, those cats who like each other groom each other often, while those that are stand-offish groom only themselves, and are groomed only by themselves. If anyone ever tells me cats are not intelligent, I disabuse them of that thought. But is this really feline intelligence I am seeing? I think it is. And that is why I believe cats, and all animals on land or in the sea, have spirits. But cats have been around people for millennia, so maybe they are displaying learned behaviours, though I do not think so.
What about fish, bugs, plants, and microbes? Do they have spirits too? I have no way to answer that but this: Evolution tells us we started as one-celled beings over 4 billion years, give or take, and those one-celled beings evolved into everything else, including us. We have spirits, I’m very sure of that. Is there any doubt all living beings should also have spirits? By human standards that does not seem possible. But we do not know how to see by bug standards, plant standards, or even microbe standards. Until we can, or absolutely cannot, I am not going to deny them what I know I have, because they are our distant ancestors. I would welcome them into our community of living beings, but I have no such right. They were here first. If anyone should be doing the welcoming, it should be them.
End of part one