What is life? Any puppy can show you
Are you alive? How can you tell?
Frederic Martini, the author of my Anatomy and Physiology textbook, says that, “though the world around us contains an enormous diversity of living organisms that vary widely in appearance and lifestyle … biologists have found that all living things share certain basic characteristics.” These include:
- Growth and Differentiation
- Movement – either internal or external
- Metabolism and excretion
The new puppy at my house has me thinking about all these. He barks and wags and perks his ears. (responsiveness, check) He is bigger by half it seems than when we picked him out just a few short weeks ago. (Growth, check) He leaps, circles, bounds, patters, runs, flops, pants – well you know, he’s a puppy. (Movement, check) He eats, poops and pees. (Metabolism/excretion, check)
Now reproduction. He’s not old enough to produce more little Buddys. But the playfulness and joy he displays is reproduced in everyone around him, so I’m gonna give him a check mark for that one, too. No one would challenge my contention that Buddy is alive: fully alive.
What about me? Responding, growing, moving, energizing? If not, then I don’t want to be reproducing, because I would be perpetuating non-alive. If so, then I do want to be passing all I know and all I do onto future generations. They are not exact replicas, but they can be the beneficiaries of what I have created and lived thus far.
Knowing that, I must be all about responding, growing, moving, energizing and reproducing. (RGMER) In fact, it’s my responsibility to be sure I am attending to each, in each area of my life. In my relationships, my work, my faith, my person, I must choose life over the dead wood that isn’t alive. That I must replace with the freshness of life, and now I have a check list. If something fails the test, it needs a check up.
What about my neighborhood? Is it Alive? RGMER?
What about my community? My school? My town? My state? My country? My world? Is there RGMER, in each?
When we were called into life and gifted for this lifetime, we were created with the capacity to interact in and with our world and charged with the responsibility to attend to them in a healthy way. We were meant to choose life. Are we? Are we fully alive? Let’s see.
- Responsiveness/Irritability (How do you respond to the immediate changes in their environment?)
- Growth and Differentiation (Day by day, are you maintaining and maturing to honor your and support healthy growth?)
- Movement (Do you move from one spot, both internally and externally, or are you so fixed in place that nothing can move you?)
- Metabolism and excretion (Are you breaking down and building up better, eliminating what needs discarding, in order to provide a healthy environment for the life in you?)
- Reproduction (Are you preparing your replacement in this world to be better equipped for this life and the next?)
Life actually doesn’t defy definition. Biologists know life when they see it. So do I.
Perishable: Use Immediately
“Life is not a hobby. It’s a precious gift. And you’re one of the lucky ones who get to experience everything it offers. Live it with a desire to that cannot be contained. Love it. Turn every day into a rewarding experience. Surround yourself with the best life has to offer – from people to places to passions. Rise up and push yourself for more. For your life and those in it. This is your time.” ~ Advertisement for the Lifetime Fitness Center
Yes, one life time. This is our time. You can do it all in your lifetime… start now.
What a great ad pitch for the new year as we consider the times just past and the changes we’d like to adopt. The ‘new’ ushers in another opportunity to get it right. To start fresh, with diligence and dedication for all the right reasons. This time we’re gonna get it right, because we’re worth it.
This is maximum effort time if you’re in the fitness industry. Folks flock to the gym with high hopes and new resolutions. Some stay. Most go. By March, things return pretty much to normal. Traffic dies down and you can get a spot in the exercise class or a seat on your favorite stationary bike.
But a few stick it out. I’m not sure what they find there. Perhaps a personal trainer, exercise companion, class. But these are all means to an end. Facilitators to the feeling that comes when you use your body in ways that are healthy and healing and … can I say holy? It’s different for everyone, but we — the ones who stay — arrive at the same place. We leave feeling different. Stronger. Lighter. Nimbler. Balanced. Better.
Better prepared for life.
Why do I call it a holy workout? Because the one thing I have on earth that I know I won’t have in heaven is my perishable body. It’s meant only for me to use here on this earth in this life. It is perfectly designed so that I can experience whatever my Maker intended for me in this lifetime.
To tune in with my ears. Focus my eyes. Soften my touch. Moisten my lips. Breathe in through my nose. Squeeze my muscles. Stretch my limbs. Activate my heart. All these were given to me to use well. Here and now. In response to the breath of God who spoke the earth into existence and me in it.
Gravity will get you if you lean
I am grateful for gravity. It keeps all the things in place on my desk so I don’t have to go plucking them out of the air like the astronauts on the space station. This is convenient. A great design.
The earth’s gravity is my friend for other reasons. It pulls me with a very specific force (9.8 meters/sec 2) directly toward the center of the earth. It holds me here. And a very physical-mathematical hold it is, that lasso around my center of gravity that pulls me directly downward.
But gravity shows no mercy. If I tip, ever so much, lean ever so slightly, it seizes its advantage and pulls me that way. If I hoist something overhead that’s a bit more than I can manage, it causes me to sway backward accentuating the pull. Centered and strong at the core is the only safe place. The place of balance, favoring neither right nor left, front nor back, is the one that holds us steady and upright.
Wouldn’t you know that right there, standing with torso erect, abdominals drawn in, shoulders and hips squared right and left, the force of gravity and I are working together. In fact, it insists I stay that way. What did Einstein suppose? “An object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Sometimes, I wonder how motion happens at all.
But most of us these days have pretty poor posture. Have you noticed how many people are hunched over out there? Either bent over by the weight they bear, physically or emotionally, or leaning to one side or the other, courtesy of children, politics, or the winds of the day that are blowing their way. I am grateful for the words of James when I picture our predicament:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. ~ James 1:2-8
Move, we must. But leaning sets us up for a fall. Gravity makes sure of this. Getting our balance requires dedicated attention to all sides of ourselves: right and left, front and back, in and out. The parts we can see and those we can’t. Sometimes it requires a friend to set us upright or put us back on track. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of comparing. Isn’t it cool that God gave us two of most of our body parts so we can compare them and attend to bringing things level?
It just takes some tuning in to how we feel. For me that means, lifting with both hands, then with each one separately to compare. Jumping from both feet, then hopping on one, then the other. The body tells me – it’s very honest – which side needs more attention. If I listen well, I comply.
Yep, motion is formational for me just as gravity has been formational for our earth. I just have to watch the deep bending and the over-extending. Bending over backwards or crouching in hiding, neither is much good to this earthly mission. But moving in perfect balance, that seems more like God’s way. He just gave us gravity so we’d know when we were a little off center.
And to keep the coffee in my cup and the cup on my desk. God’s full of great ideas!