We breathe, thus we live.
Life is the opposite of death, but for most people it’s also so much more than simply existing. A plant can live and die and so can a sparrow and a bear, but yet we see and treat the lives of different lifeforms differently. Why is that? What makes the life and existence of a dog, a beetle or a tree any different from that of a human being?
Is it simply that we are human, so our focus mainly lies on ourselves? Or has it become like that because we are able to talk and therefore communicate our thoughts and ideals about life to each other more clearly?
Even among us as a group, as human beings, our focus and ideals of ‘the perfect life’ or ‘the good life’ have changed over time. What was important to us, to society, a few thousand years ago is different from what it is now. When survival was not a given, food was scarce, and illness and war were enemies, then naturally life became a battle for survival. For some it still is.
Later, when our basic needs were met, we started to be able to think about other things. Things like happiness. However, just like different times and different societies have had different ideals, what matters most to one individual might not matter as much to another, and it might also differ from what society sees as most important. It has become a matter of defining the quality of our individual lives.
For some survival is still on the very top of the list – food, water, rest and safety can all improve the quality of their lives, but to truly live, in the sense of not only existing, happiness needs to be a factor when determining the quality of life as well.
There’s no real way to talk about happiness without also touching upon the topic of individuality. We’re people with feelings, and no two of us are the same. We are individuals, we have different likes and dislikes, different wishes and wants, and different ideals. Each of us values things in life that we think are important, and therefore each and everyone of us has a unique idea of what will make us happy.
For some it’s family, for others it’s a profession, a place, a goal, an achievement, or likely a combination of those things and more. Some things makes us happy for a moment, like a cool drink on a hot day, but what are those things which makes us truly happy inside? Those things which we treasure in our hearts every single day, and which keep us going through good times as well as bad?
Human beings are complex, and though we have the advantage that we can communicate with one another, sometimes that can also be the cause of the complexity. For better and worse. Giving everyone the opportunity to speak up about what quality of life is for them and what makes them happy, gives us a more complex picture of people than what we have of living beings we can’t communicate so clearly with. But does that mean living for an animal or a plant is any less complex? Or does it simply mean that we cannot understand?
Human or animal, I don’t think there is a simple answer to any question dealing with life. Life in itself is both simple in it’s most basic form – we all live and we all eventually die too, but it’s also a complex matter that philosophers have discussed for decades. And perhaps we do not need an answer. Perhaps finding the answer for ourselves is part of what life is really about.