If everything is alive.

Leveller

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Not long ago, I was present when two people were discussing their spiritual beliefs. Although they were very different, they both shared a belief that everything was alive. Rocks, rivers, clouds etc all alive. I believe this is animism, although neither used the term.

It has since struck me, that if everything is alive, surely there is no such thing as death? If we have no death, how do we define "life"? Does it even have a meaning in such beliefs?
 

Ella S.

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In my opinion, if everything was alive, then that would make the concept of "life" meaningless. Scientifically speaking, though, life is a subset of everything. Rocks, rivers, and clouds do not meet the definition for life.

Living organisms must meet these seven criteria:

1. They must undergo homeostasis
2. They must be a cell or composed of cells
3. They must have a metabolism
4. They must grow
5. They must be capable of adapting to their environment
6. They must respond to stimuli
7. They must be capable of reproduction

Furthermore, death is the termination of all vital functions, and so organisms are only "alive" as long as they continue to be capable of responding to stimuli or maintaining homeostasis or metabolism, for instance.

All of this said, when people say that everything is alive, I don't think they're actually talking about life. I think they're misspeaking and really mean something else, because rocks are demonstrably not composed of cells.
 

Unveiled artist

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Not long ago, I was present when two people were discussing their spiritual beliefs. Although they were very different, they both shared a belief that everything was alive. Rocks, rivers, clouds etc all alive. I believe this is animism, although neither used the term.

It has since struck me, that if everything is alive, surely there is no such thing as death? If we have no death, how do we define "life"? Does it even have a meaning in such beliefs?

I think what people mean in a spiritual sense is that everything we consider natural in life have a "breathe" in which instead of dying (poofing from existence) but dying as in changing form. Rocks change form so do humans and trees. It's saying that we are not inanimate objects but living, forming and moving via energy and vitality.

What makes it, I guess, spiritual is that some people put high value in experiencing and even believe in being part of this breathe.

It's experiencing energy of all there is. Chairs, tv, and light polls are made of the earth so many animist see them as alive too.

It depends on how a person wishes to relate to life as how Ella describes it and/or "spiritual" vitality.

I like this definition: spirit is the vital principle or animating force within all living things.

Life force.

But not all religions believe in a life force but that all IS energy not sparked by it. So it depends. I'm an animist but I don't use the word since it's not something separate just what I experienced.
 

Leveller

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Thanks for the answers. I had looked elsewhere before posting here. The only thing that seemed practical to me is the idea that the definition of life, in the spiritual sense, means possession of a soul. The problem here is that depending on one's viewpoint, can a soul depart? If so that creates another death scenario.

I can only conclude, so far, that the expression "everything is alive", has no merit. If souls/spirits can dwell within inanimate objects perhaps "everything has the potential for life" would be a better spiritual position.
 

wil

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Well phooey. I expected a discussion of the premise.

If everything were alive would my spoon move the soup to my mouth? Would the soup choose to stay in the bowl.

Does my phone get tired of me tapping on it or does it see it as acupuncture?
 

Unveiled artist

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Well phooey. I expected a discussion of the premise.

If everything were alive would my spoon move the soup to my mouth? Would the soup choose to stay in the bowl.

Does my phone get tired of me tapping on it or does it see it as acupuncture?

Are you defining life as a soul? Everything of the natural world is made up of energy. Spoons included.
 

Cino

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A more mystical view:

Looking at my surroundings, in a very relaxed mode of perception which dors nor require every image of an object to come into my skull via the eyesockets to present itself to a little perceiver sitting in there, but letting perception do its thing without having a stake in the process, everything appears in its place, self-evident, luminous, and, yes, alive or active or present or conscious, in itself, with this property of unifying the roles of perceived, perception, and perceiver.

It always comes out weird and abstract when I write it down like this.

To put it in poetic terms, the world lives, but it does not live in our heads.
 

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Ella S.

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I think what people mean in a spiritual sense is that everything we consider natural in life have a "breathe" in which instead of dying (poofing from existence) but dying as in changing form. Rocks change form so do humans and trees. It's saying that we are not inanimate objects but living, forming and moving via energy and vitality.

What makes it, I guess, spiritual is that some people put high value in experiencing and even believe in being part of this breathe.

It's experiencing energy of all there is. Chairs, tv, and light polls are made of the earth so many animist see them as alive too.

It depends on how a person wishes to relate to life as how Ella describes it and/or "spiritual" vitality.

I like this definition: spirit is the vital principle or animating force within all living things.

Life force.

But not all religions believe in a life force but that all IS energy not sparked by it. So it depends. I'm an animist but I don't use the word since it's not something separate just what I experienced.

This is a great breakdown. Thank you.
 
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