What Does It Mean To Be Alive?

Can you truly say that you are alive?

By definition, we are all alive. Every human that walks on this beautiful place we call home, that breaths in the air around us are alive.

Of course, being alive does not mean that one is alive. We all breath the same air, but not all of us cherish it in the same way. Not all of us wake to breathe in the crisp air in the early morning.

Here, we must make a distinction between being alive and living. Being alive means that you are living and breathing. Although it does not always mean that, people in comas are still alive, even though they are not in possession of their functions.

Living is something else entirely. To live is to make the most of your time on Earth. To push yourself to escape your comfort zone and challenge yourself to the things that scare you the most.

It was T. S. Eliot who said: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Pushing ourselves to the outer limits of our boundaries is when we find out who we truly are. To go through life without testing oneself is to waste your time on this Earth.

Human history is one of endeavour and struggle. We did not get to where we are today as a species by sitting around and watching the world pass us by. Our ancestors took life by the scruff of the neck and bent it to their will.

That is the reason we are here today. To waste this gift on idleness and comfort is a travesty.

Leave It All Out There

There is a saying in most sports about leaving everything out on the pitch. as a huge football fan, I can testify to this. One of the most infuriating things as a fan is to see a player for your team going through the motions.

My team is Liverpool F.C. and I have been to numerous matches where the commitment of some of the players on the pitch could be called into question. As a fan, this is intolerable.

All of us that are present in the stadium would give anything to be able to pull on the jersey and represent the team we love. Unfortunately, skill and circumstance have prevented this dream from becoming a reality.

Still, we are within our rights to demand the best from those who represent our great club on the pitch. They are the figures through which we realise our own dreams. To see less than 100% commitment is an affront to the money we pay to enter the stadium.

Life is similar. Some of us may reach 70 years of age, some of us 90, and some of us may be lucky to reach a century of years on this planet. But, just because we reach these numbers does not mean that we have lived for all of that time.

The Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote in one of his letters of a man who had recently passed away.

“Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”

Whenever we refer to someone who has recently passed, we often say something to the effect of, “they lived for 77 years.” While this may sound correct on the face of it, if you dig a little deeper, it’s not the case.

A more accurate description would be that “they were for 77 years.” Deep down we know that most of us never truly for the entirety of our lives. We fritter away a lot of our time watching Netflix shows or staring into the black mirrors we carry around with us.

This is why it’s more accurate to say someone was alive because most of the time it’s hard to argue that we are alive!

Quality Over Quantity

The intention is not to speak ill of the dead, but to remind us that the duration of our life on this planet is not what is important. It’s the quality of the time we spend here that matters, not the quantity.

You could live to be 99 years of age, yet only have lived a fraction of the life of someone aged 25 who has lived their short life to its fullest. We cannot control how long we spent on Earth, but we can determine the quality of that time.

Our existence is the blink of an eye in the life of the cosmos. Although it may feel like we have been around for an eternity, the reality is bleak. We are here, and then we are gone. No more, no less.

It is vital that we install some urgency into our lives and aim to make the most out of them. We have no idea when our time is up, we are all living on borrowed time. To spend that time going through the motions is an assault on life itself.

Again, on these matters, it is useful to turn to Seneca once again:

“It’s not in my power how long I will live, but rather how long I will truly exist.”

It is foolish to suggest we can go through life living every moment to the max. It’s not possible. However, we can maximise the quality of our life to a large extent. We need to try and leave as much on the pitch as we can.

We do not hold any sway over the longevity of our lives, but we are in full possession of the quality of it. Live your life to the fullest possible extent, because it is the only thing within your control.

After all, no one else will do it for you.

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I like to write. I like to travel. https://www.thetravellingtom.com Join my email list -> https://tomstevenson.substack.com/

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