|"Be the poet of your life."|
What is being alive? What does aliveness mean? What is the connection between life and alive?
This blog ponders these questions. Nothing more.
Life can, rather prosaically, be defined as that period between birth and death. Rather humdrum that. Perhaps we should animate it somewhat, so that life becomes an animated corporeal existence. Is that any better?
The English word life comes into the language from the Proto-Germanic word leiban meaning the body, or simply life. That’s rather circular, isn’t it?
What if we dig deeper? The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) antecedent is the word leip which has the meanings of to stick, or adhere. This starts to give life a bit more substance. This now suggest a continuance, and a wish or desire for something (or someone) to remain.
Life then could be said to be a desire to remain in and of the world, and to continue doing so, at least unto death.
If that is life, then what is it to be alive?
Life is a noun, whereas live is a verb. To live, then, is the acts, behaviours, deeds, and manners of something that has life.
Ah, but what of that small prefix – a?
It is only one letter, but it is of profound significance.
In English, the prefix a may denote a variety of meanings. It could mean in, on, or into. It can also act as an intensifier, or to mean of.
A further meaning expands on all these and suggests engaged in.
So, to be alive is more than simply that period of time between birth and death.
To be alive means to be actively engaged in life, and to be fully immersed in the interconnections of all things.
How do we do that?
Friedrich Nietzsche1 has a simple reply: ‘Be the poet of your own life.’
Be the poet. Play with rhythm, rhyme, cadence, and alliteration in your life. Experiment with metaphor, allegory, and legends. Follow and learn from archetypes, symbols, and ancient pathways.
To be a-live though, does not mean that the poem that is your life must have meaning. Being alive is the meaning. As Alan Watts2 noted:
‘The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.’
Simple really. Engage in life.
1. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) was an influential German philosopher. His most well known work is Also Sprach Zarathustra (So Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None) published in four volumes between 1883 and 1885.2. Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was an English writer, speaker, and philosopher, noted mainly for his popularising of Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu philosophies to Western audiences.