Whether we are ‘alive’ or not is a question so convoluted by arbitrary criteria and devoid of a general consensus it proves hard to answer. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. Also thrown into the mix is the lack of a definitive ‘dead’ against which to contrast our ‘aliveness’. When we’ve taken in our last breath do we cease to be ‘alive’? Or do we live through our legacy? Beethoven died in 1773. I’d argue he is still very much alive — probably more so than I.
So how do we tackle this?
Through a measurement of our happiness? Our virtue? Our creative output?
I don’t really think there is a universally perfect answer. We cannot neatly frame this question and measure our existence against an ascending checklist of universal life values for a score out of 10.
‘I am an 8.3 out of 10 ‘alive’. Not bad, eh? How about you Dave?’
‘Oh, I’m only a 3.7. I need to quit my job,’
So we have to make it a deeply personal and introspective exploration of what we want from our short time on this planet. The shroud of ambiguity surrounding the intricacies of the meaning of our existence are displaced by our ability to create meaning to that existence. Each and every one of us has an unyielding desire to be, to feel, to see, and to do different, extraordinary things.
On that basis the answer is (I know this seems like bit of a cop-out) we all have our own answers of what it means to be alive, and our scale of ‘perfection’ is only measurable against the framework of imperfection that is subject to individual interpretation. I cannot tell you how alive you are. I’m in no place to pass judgement on that. Our interpretations are going to be wildly different, and we’ll probably just end up falling out.
But I know I’m most alive when I’m stimulating my creative desires. When I’m writing. When I’m laughing. When I’m engaged in an interesting argument or debate. When I feel some genuine hunger. The rest of the time I’m bound by the chains of necessity, which are largely economic. And that is one sure way to drift through life without ever actually being awake. It’s time to lose the rotting wood that’s keeping us afloat in this choppy ocean of existence and try and swim for ourselves.
We can all leave the comfort zone and start living.