How can we tell if something is alive?
Biologists look for 5 traits, processes or functions as signs of life:
- metabolism (consume, construct, destruct, excrete)
- growth (learn, build, improve)
- reproduction (spawn offspring or ideas)
- responsiveness (sensitive, attentive, active)
- movement (action, progress, liveliness)
These are the characteristics of life — the life of anything.
That’s cool, because I can ask, how does my group or organization fare in this test?
- Does it have a healthy intake, constructing, evaluating and excreting the excess?
- Is it growing in size, stature, knowledge and/or numbers?
- Is it spawning new ideas, new energy, spin-offs, satellites?
- Is it sensitive to the needs of community and responding effectively to those needs?
- Is it doing things and taking action rather than standing by, waiting or watching?
If my organization is alive, I can dive in. If not, how can I enliven it? If I can’t, perhaps I should look elsewhere.
Even better, I can do the life-test with projects I am considering taking on or investing in.
- Will it engage me in a healthy way and allow me to sift out and toss the excess?
- Will it contribute to my growth? help me learn, improve or perform better?
- Is it creative and something I will want to share and pass along?
- Does it meet a real need in a way that is effective at reducing the need?
- Will my active participation offer satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment?
Of every opportunity, I can ask: Is this alive for me?
… If maybe? Give it a try and test again.
… If no? Then it’s someone else’s project.
It’s worth the test. Our biology shows us how. All things we choose to do should answer yes to this question: Is this life-giving for me?
What are we made of?
the stuff of stars
the elements of the periodic table
concocted of chemicals that explode,
ions that interact,
molecules that relate.
We are the stuff of life.
No more, no less
we think, and move
and have our being.
Somehow we animated,
went from sketch to living color.
Our chemistry became biology,
we moved from dead in our tracks
to alive and well.
Well, not so well.
Our chemistry is faulty, we say,
prone to pesticides and processed to pieces.
Our environment does us in, we say,
nothing to be done about the ways of the world.
Our bodies betray us, we say,
resenting the long hours and little pay.
Who would fault us for losing hope in them?
the One who made us,
who imagined our being.
The chemist who
connected our elements,
shaped our molecules,
formulated our reactions,
exploded our contents.
the only one present when
our chemistry became our biology.
When we came to life.