The very act of defining something results to some degree in misnaming it. For every thing that has a word, we have created a description more or less apt. This doesn’t mean we cannot strive for greater precision of understanding, but the current nature of diversity of life as we know it, with its many opinions and ideologies, precludes unity of terminology.
As an atheist, I have no problem entertaining the suggestion that biological forms might return to some universal life force upon death. Another atheist might scoff at this, calling it “woo”. I would too, were it not for the distinction that this ubiquitous energy, as it were, is infinite in both time and space, not some localized paradise with an authority figure on a throne. Furthermore, I would posit that the hard sciences are infinitely incapable of doing anything other than what philosophy has done vis a vis giving meaning this thing we call “life”. Sure, science defines life just fine, but one constant that remains is the ironical wall we hit when our consciousness tries to grasp the infinite.
Interestingly, you hear more and more these days from scientists and pseudoscientists alike that time is a construct, an illusion. “And so is space” is increasingly common. Far from confirming anything other than what we are not, such ideas do manage to add to the evidence that all this existence will ever be to those of us experiencing it is a search for a better analogy.
We got all these words that prove inadequate to the task, and symbols that are no better as soon as we find ourselves using words to describe their profundity, so we use the science of geometry for our edification. Take, for example, the use of quadrants to contextualize the extent to which things are this and/or that. At least those are, from a visual perspective, multi-dimensional. A source of great folly, in my opinion, as it relates to our understanding of the sociopolitical spectrum of left and right is its one-dimensional nature. Pun intended.
Metaphors. It’s all we got, and I would argue, all we will ever have. The best and brightest humans of science and philosophy have shown people how to get a glimpse of what is beyond, but as anyone who has engaged in daily glimpsing can tell you, the struggle to understand, to apply universal meaning, will always be an exercise in the creation of better analogies in order to spread the good news.
To wit: the Holy Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Upanishads (these are all words with a “the” this time): Fables. And written into them are a warning to the wise: that the “words” will be misused for the sake of power. Some might call those weasel words, that is, a built-in excuse by the authors. Maybe. But the point remains that they are allegorical teachings that, when you factor in ethno-lingual misinterpretations, have the potential to render the lessons too clustered to prevent their universal study from becoming primarily an indoctrination into the absurd. They remain great tools for power and control, however.
Too many words?
How is it that technically superior musicians can make crappy records while their inferior colleagues create discs of the sublime? Less is sometimes more. But not always. The technical master is prepared to deliver the right notes, but is he or she able to ignore the wrong ones, not to cluster their creations with all the things they cannot unsee and unhear, all the things they cannot unlearn? Balance. There are plenty of “musicians” of no particular talent or learning who also happen to make shitty records. Regarding the number of notes, I’d say that the most profound music will by default be the kind that knows when it suffices. Relatively speaking, less is always more.
If you’re struggling with the semantics of your verbal creations, I advise you to mess with the syntax. The most common answer to a “What is…” question is “It is…” Even at its most vague or indirect. “Life is what you make it”, for example, or “Life is what you think it is.”
Shuffling things around a bit, we might come up with “Living is dying of the disease called ’life’.” In other words, we are always living, we are always dying, we are always becoming that which we are, and headed to the place where we are not. Eternal recurrence is not just a river in South Dakota. Life is a metaphor.