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Definition of Life?

Definition of Life?

Life has always been a phenomenon that people have questioned for centuries. However, these questions were centered more around the purpose of life. So what is the answer? What is the purpose of life? Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to the purpose of life, that is up to the reader to determine as that question is subjective. Take a quick look at the title again..." Definition of Life?". We are not looking at the purpose of life, but rather, what defines it. Hang tight though, we will dive into its meaning 150 characters later.

Definition & Characteristics of Life

Today, we define life as having certain qualities which separate the non-living from living things. Biologists have created a list of characteristics that consider an object to be alive.

Living things must have all these characteristics:

  1. Order - Living things are complex, highly ordered, and consist of one or more cells.

  2. Sensitivity or Response to Stimuli - Respond to their environment

  3. Reproduction - Reproduce to keep the species alive

  4. Adaptation - Environment influences survival

  5. Growth & Development - Can grow and develop (change) throughout life.

  6. Regulation - Coordination of internal functions

  7. Homeostasis - Maintain internal balance

  8. Energy Processing - Perform metabolism to function

**Visit Dre's Tutoring for my Full lecture on "Introduction to Biology" coming soon which breaks down each characteristic mentioned.

Is That All?

Unfortunately, that is all. The characteristics mentioned above are what we consider as life (based on life on Earth). Though this definition was not as exciting as some would presume, the purpose of life is far more interesting.

Meaning of Life

Austrian Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl explored the meaning of life and mentioned that it is different from person to person. It is hard to have one definitive meaning, therefore it should not be about the meaning. Instead, life is about the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. Could this be why we say to always live in the moment?

Frankl mentions three different ways one can discover the meaning of life. The first is to (1) create work or doing a deed. Think of this as doing something that will leave your footprint on Earth; leaving the world a better place from when you came to be. The second is to (2) gain experience or meeting someone. This is straight-forward as in life you go through experiences whether it is good or bad to learn. Without life experiences and meeting people, we will never be able to figure out who we are and who we want to become. Lastly, we have (3) unavoidable suffering or situations that are out of our control. An example of this is being born with a rare disease. Because suffering is an inevitable part of life, we must find meaning in it. No matter which way you take, all three allow an individual to draw meaning to life. It gives purpose to what you were put on Earth to do.

“Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint”

-Romans 5:3-5

In Closing

Whether you follow the words of Frankl or see no true meaning to life, at least we know the definition of life. The definition and the purpose of life are on two different streets which many people confuse. From the biological stand-point, life is seen merely as a list of properties biologists use to make our lives easy. We can tell the difference between a non-living thing like a rock and a living thing like a fungus. What we cannot define is life meaning....

Meaning = What it is.

Definition = Words we use to describe something.


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