Ask Amy: Living

Dear Amy,

What is the meaning of living?


— Captain Madness

Dear Captain Madness,

The meaning of living is something that can be very quickly defined biologically: our one real meaning of living is to procreate and further our species. Of course that is the standard meaning for any biological creature on the planet, and I would say the human race is anything but standard.

I’m not claiming that we are either superior or inferior to other organisms on the planet, but we are quite different from any other species out there. We have the ability to adapt and change our environment to suit ourselves. We have had the opportunity to create a division of labor in our society that has resulted in our ability to spend time on pursuits other than food procurement and survival.

Because of this division of labor, we have had the ability to develop complex written and spoken language, as well as art.

We have developed culture out of a mere society, and that’s what separates us from the other species of our planet.

Although my first answer to your question is still fundamentally correct, but because of all our species’ accomplishments, we have changed the meaning of what “living” is.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

You can have life and not truly be living if all you are concerned with is your own meager existence. To truly be living life, you need at least be aware of – if not understand and empathize with – all aspects of the human condition.

To be “living” is to understand the hardships and wonders of your fellow man. By simply existing in your own little tiny world, you don’t experience life beyond your narrow confines, and you throw away what separates our species from all others.

Our ability to focus on activities other than personal survival should make us aware of more than just our own tiny existence; if we can’t, then I propose we aren’t truly living.

So I ask you: have you done any living lately?

Hope I’ve helped,