3.a.2 – What do we mean with life?

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March 6, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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What do we mean with life?

The word life has many shades of meaning:
– it often means the existence of the individual
– other times it refers to an asset that is handed down from generation to generation; each of us receives life by parents and gives it to the children
– in biology life is considered a natural phenomenon having its origins billion years ago and today is manifested through all living forms
– we can also talk of social life, family life, professional life, spiritual life, of a second life, to rebuild our life and so on, to identify particularly important aspects of life.
In general, our life is to us far more important than that of the other, but it is a rule with exceptions and it appears normal to all of us that, in extreme cases, parents sacrifice their lives for their children and it does not surprise us even if this happens for other family members or someone else’s children; clearly in our mind is formed a hierarchy of values or sub-values related to life and their order perfectly reflects the criteria of survival of the species: first there are the lives of children and then the ones of the parents; likewise, if we must choose whether to save the life of a child we do no not or an unknown adult, the general trend is to salve the child.
We must note that is rather common in human societies, that life of the community comes first to life (or to the interest) of the individual; we have the example of both war heroes, who sacrifice for the homeland, and of criminals who waive a strong reduction of penalty to cover their accomplices; this is a typical behavior of highly social animals, for which the group takes a primary importance, above that of the individual, because he couldn’t survive anyway, nor grow his children, outside of it.
If we want to create a suggestive image of life, we can say that it is like the water flowing into a river that branches off in a thousand rivulets; each one of us is a stretch of these small water rivulets, our parents are the previous section and our children the following one, while life, i.e. water, flows from grandparents to grandchildren through us; we have seen how in human communities it is of fundamental importance not only the genetic but also the cultural heritage, so every person has an upstream cultural rivulet that feeds his life and downstream some waterways that utilize the cultural heritage handed down by it; it follows that every man must be aware of his role in the flow of the river of life even in the absence of a biological offspring; we must therefore do everything to ensure that the flow does not stop, and to this purpose we must also protect the waterways that are close to us, which represent our family or our community. Life is a river that flows over time, the source is billions of years back in time, while the mouth is the future to which it perpetually heads.
This image is just a metaphor created to better remember the concept but, in other times, it could have been inserted into a mythology and then be considered, over the years, something real; this would have facilitated the transmission to successive generations, but at the same time it would have prevented it to be critically analyzed and modified with changing of times, and now that times are quickly changing, we can no longer allow this type of error; is always useful, from an educational point of view, to use metaphors and similar gimmicks, but we must be sure that they remain such.

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