I have been thinking a lot on the nature of life and death. They are, in my eyes, one; there is no longer distinction between them. All things are energy; all things are moving. In fact, one might say there is only life—for, when photons (light particles) slow their movements (as occurs around black holes), what we know as “time” slows down.
Without movement, life ceases to exist. That is the true death—the anthesis of life.
But all things which move—perhaps slowly, or on a quantum level—are, in my eyes, living. What we call death is simply the loss of individual consciousness; of memory, and identity. But the things of which that individual was made have served their purpose; like a star, they take in, convert, and give out throughout their lifetime—and yes, even in “death.” What the individual was made of does not simply disappear, but merely changes still as it is absorbed by the environment around it.
Where one thing ends and another begins is difficult to define. I am me; a human individual. I have lived, and I will die. I hold memories; a sense of self. Yet in the process of living, every day, billions 1 of my cells cease to function, and leave my body to be integrated into the universe around me—yet I, my own consciousness, continue to exist.
I shed hair, fingernails, saliva—even human excrement (the majority of which is bacterial matter). While there are other things mixed in, the “waste” product of foods in faeces—though no longer “alive” as the term is commonly used—have been converted into different nutrient, and will also be integrated back into the environment—into other living things.
In fact, there is an 1:1 ratio of bacteria to human cells in my body right now2 (or, as Dr. Natasha writes, at least “1.5-2 kg of bacteria in the gut”3!); which is a most marvellous example of symbiosis at work. Where do they end, and my “being” begin? I could not healthily function without them, nor they me (or another host).
My point is that life—even as the term is commonly used—is not static. It is constantly, changing, moving and renewing itself. It is a fire which, in order to burn, must consume.
1Horrel, Sam, ‘On Average, How Many Cells Die in a Human Body a Minute?‘ (2013) | featured on the Crystallography Zone
2Ayinon, Caroline, ‘Mythbusters: Human Microbiota‘ (2016) | featured in Yale Scientific
3Campbell McBride, Natasha, ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’ Pg. 15