When I came home from playing football today I took a shower. About two minutes in, my eye caught sight of a small black shape moving very organically at my feet. When I reached down to touch it, the water splashed over my back, changed its course and the particle lost its wobble. I realised that it was just a piece of dirt that had made the trip home from the pitch with me.
Haven’t you shared similar experiences? seen a piece of matter moved by the elements, wind or water, in such a way that it appears alive? It exists as alive in our mind until our perception receives additional information to think otherwise. Yet the same elements are inside of us and every living being, and the consensus is that there they’re very incontestably driving life.
One of the first concepts we are taught upon beginning high-school biology is that everything on Earth exists in at least one of four planetary layers: the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere (solid minerals, water, air and life). We accept that chemical reactions define the processes in each one, but in the biosphere these chemical cycles operate in tandem with the unique force of life that imbues them and as such are considered to be in a class of their own. This attribute makes the biosphere distinct, but from an outside perspective, life can also be seen as just another set of organizational forces that determine how matter comes to be structured. Life is a continuation of the energy that blew apart and created all the elements that surround us long ago, and that continues to propagate to create evermore diverse and chaotic mixed structures. Humans have invented communication networks that allow even ideational flows to participate in structuring these material flows (and viceversa), but we’re not the only species that is moved to transform through ideas. When sea birds congregate in the millions on islands in the middle of the ocean to find a mate and have offspring, they surely also tell each other something about the world during the months that they spend next to each other on a barren rock. When they leave, this collectively propagated information influences how they act upon their environment.
To me life is perplexing and wonderful because it appears to have its own unique dynamics while simultaneously following the elemental properties of its constituent matter. How much of how we move, think, feel and express do you think is actually due to the fact that we are mostly made up of water?