Life Is Precious, Life Is Cheap

Life is precious. From humans to microbes, an organism arranges itself to energize itself, repair itself, avoid danger, resist death. Even a tomato plant defies death by its very persistence in living and by living beyond itself through its seeds. Life must be precious for living is what organisms do at almost any price. Rooted in biology, love intensifies friendship and community. The atoms that compose our bodies were born in stars and move on from our bodies out to the earth. We search other planets for signs of life. A cancer survivor I know travels to the ocean once a year to celebrate her life.

Life is cheap. The number of organisms on the planet is beyond counting. Look beyond our human nose to all the bacteria, green and not-green plants of every size, sea creatures, animals crawling, flying, and walking––living things are common. Every body is vulnerable, dependent on the right heat, light, and water, built from ordinary materials, prone to breakage. Big fish eat little fish, and animals eat big fish, little fish, and plants. Fear, hunger, illness, injury, and fatigue cramp our days. Rooted in biology, love is an incentive to bond to protect offspring for a while. The atoms that compose our bodies are almost entirely empty space; we are mostly vacuum. A healthy, fortunate man I know asked me last week, “Is this all there is?”

Lives are precious and cheap, one-of-a-kind and a dime a dozen, self-perpetuating and ephemeral.

 

Escher’s “Ascending and Descending”

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