Let’s Expand the Notion of “What is Life”

P1760919That is alive, I think that’s easy to agree on. We call it a sedum, drawn up out of soil by the sun. This, too.


Like the sedum, this one is self-replicating, hence the ‘life’ moniker. We call this one ‘robin’, but it’s just stuff, organized in a certain way, really. Here’s some more stuff, organized in a certain way.

P1780679 Salt, drawn out of the soil by the sun, that’s what that is. We call it evaporation. In a way, this is what all life is. The major difference between this and the, ahem, robin, is sex. This guy had that in mind too, by the looks of things.


That’s an important difference, but let’s not make more of it than it is. The salt is alive, within the context of the earth and the sun. It is part of a singularity. The fact that life is defined as a multiplicity is no fault of the living earth or its unreplicatable nature. Here’s some salt drawn up out of the soil by the sun.

Lovely, isn’t it! but let’s remember, both it and this..

… and “simple” evaporative processes are all responding to the force of the sun. Certainly, there is a distinction between those that are active about it, like the flower above, and these ponderosa pines crystallizing, so to speak, around the water that the sun draws up through their needles …


… and those that are passive about it all, like the salt, but if we perceive them from outside of an anthropocentric point of view, they are all alive. This is, too.


 Skrutustadir, Iceland

That makes three forms of life: perceived, evaporative, and procreative. What strikes me as significant about that list is the first term: perceived. Whether it’s colour…

purple … or colour…P1760930

… it doesn’t matter. Salt, plants, birds, and perceived spiritual form all share the same characteristic: they are perceived with eyes of the earth. Those are human eyes, among others. If we choose to see instead with eyes of logic, let’s say, and define ‘life’ according to stricter, more limiting criteria, such as “the group of all things that self replicate and have their own agency”, we are only fulfilling the boundaries of the boundaries that we have set. I find that a prison. I would rather live with the things of the world. This, for instance.


What on earth is it doing behind a fence set up, ostensibly, to block the passage of deer through an orchard, but, really, set up to prevent a farmer from shooting deer passing through the orchard because it is the culture of orchardists to shoot deer for what are, in the end, small economic consequences. Humans are top predators. They define life as predators do. Pity.


To predators, Russian thistles, like the ones blooming above, are a noxious weed.

6 replies »

  1. Many, and more and more are loving Nature. The question is how to congeal all this love worldwide, and convert mindless and greedy exploiters, to make their money in constructive life-giving enterprises.


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