What Is Life?

A New Years Resolution of mine for 2015 was to read more books. Unfortunately, I failed to meet this ambition, as I only read a few (Magic of Reality by Richard DawkinsEdison’s Very Crude Explanation of Quantum Mechanics: Where Science and Spirituality Begin to Meet, by Edison Thomas and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman). Of course, the list of books I started is rather deep. Two books that I have started are “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, in an attempt to transport back to when I was doing my English GCSE’s. I am combatting the brilliant Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. The other book, “What is Life?” by Erwin Schrodinger is a reading experience like no other and I have found myself questioning everything.

Schrödinger’s Cat: The infamous thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as a quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. The thought experiment is also often featured in theoretical discussions of the interpretations of quantum mechanics. Schrödinger coined the term Verschränkung (entanglement) in the course of developing the thought experiment.


Schrödinger pondered one of the most fundamental questions to plague humanity. What is Life? Schrödinger tackled this question from a physicist’s perspective, fusing the laws of physics and behaviour of sub-atomic particles to the biological structure of life. Scientists, Philosophers, Theologians, Artists and Musician’s have all attempted to answer the question; what is life? Yet, the question itself is dripping in ambiguity, perhaps a frame of reference is required. How do we define what life is? What does life require? I don’t know if I could answer these questions, what is life? But, what I can attempt to answer is; what is living? For me, living is a conscious experience of events that elicits physiological, emotional and cognitive responses on the observer.

Memories provide the paint to portray this idea. For instance, imagine, the lifestyle of a millionaire. It’s intuitive to believe that their life would be full of fantastic experiences such; luxurious exotic holidays, driving expensive cars and eating beautiful and delicious food. When we too experience the fruits of a particular lifestyle, we may look back on that time of our lives and say with tremendous joy “that was living”.

However, that’s not to suggest that living is about luxury or fine dining. When a person experiences life events that prohibit joy or happiness, and are substituted by sadness, fear or anxiety, we may rhetorically ask “What a life”. For instance, could we argue that the daughter of Josef Fritzl had a life, after being held captive by her father for 24 years? Could we argue that the countless children born with HIV/AIDS have a life? Finally, could we argue that the prisoners held captive in Guantanamo Bay have lives? Of course, the above examples demonstrate an absence of human rights but the point persists.

So, when we look back on our own lives, our memories will determine what our life was. How did our conscious interactions with nature affect or illicit physiological, emotional and cognitive responses?

So What is Life? Maybe life is the evaluation and measurement of the experiences of living. But, what ever life is, you have one, make the most of it and make live it to the full.

Please feel free to comment, like and share.

My views are my own and do not represent the individual or collective views of Bollington Town Council.

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