Human Life vs. Being Alive

william smith
3 min readDec 31, 2020

There are many perspectives from which our humanity and what it means to be alive as a human can be viewed. There’s a “physical view”, like that described by biologists Peter Luisi and George Church. There’s also a “social view” like that described as interactions among human beings by Brandon Stanton and David Reich. For example, in “Humans” Stanton (@humansofny ) writes,

Everyone is hiding behind their shield. …if our shields are what separate us, it’s what behind them that brings us together, the struggles, the worries, the pain, the weakness. …All of the soft spots… It’s the soft spots that make us most relatable to each other. These are the things that connect us — if only we allow them to be seen.” If we’re ever to understand what it means to be human we must acknowledge and discuss our “soft spots”.

Geneticist George Church comes pretty close to discussing our “soft spots” in his provocative book, Regenesis, How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. Church asks, “What, then, is Life”. Most provocative is when Dr. Church writes “let’s consider the possibility that life is a continuous, scalable and measurable property… Two complex random patterns seem unremarkable consequences of an inorganic, lifeless world, but two complex patterns that look precisely alike are a hallmark of life”.

So in all likelihood life may not be the same as being alive. To be alive we may need to possess life but more importantly WE must be capable of experiencing and feeling a continuous, scalable and measurable property” in others. For Human beings life without others is likely a void and empty experience. For example a rhododendron has life in the sense it has a metabolism but it cannot “experience” the presence of other living beings. A rhododendron cannot share it’s soft spots with other rhododendron or any other living species.

This is a picture of a mother and her children sharing their soft spots. Even without an understanding of soft spots they possess a continuous, scalable and measurable property” WITH each other. They’re allowing their soft spots to be seen by each other. Each, in their own way, is allowing their struggles, worries, pain, and weakness to be seen by the other and in doing so they possess more than biological life, they are alive! This is why human beings must have feelings for