“Of natural bodies some have life in them, others do not.”
Aristotle, On the Soul
VIDEO FOLLOWED BY DISTINCT WRITTEN REFLECTION
It seldom catches our attention. So easy is it for us to pass it by without noticing.
That tree is alive. Choose the tree—it matters not which one: the specimen maple in the back yard; the yoshino cherry out front; the apple tree in the orchard; the lone pine clinging to the mountainside; or that white oak, one among many, standing silently in the forest.
How do I begin to comprehend what is going on here? I will pull up a chair and sit down. And observe.
Matter can live. It can nourish itself; it can grow; it can reproduce. Living matter is no ordinary matter. It is animated matter; and it is different, as is evident in the unique character of living actions. Matter never acts this way, except when it is alive.
The scientist’s description of how living things act does not lessen the astonishing character of these actions. It highlights it.
In me there is living matter, just as in the tree. Remarkably, unless plants live; I cannot. Our living is intimately intertwined—as the roots of trees—whether I see this or not.
To understand human life, I do well to try to understand the deep commonality between myself and other living material things. There is a time to emphasize the difference; but the difference is only understood in a context of sameness, and of interwoven destinies.
Living material things. I live with them. I eat some. I tend to some. I contemplate some. I can care about, learn from, and be grateful for them all. Indeed, I am one.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. On the Soul is his study of the amazing reality of living things.
Image: Oak in Winter. Donald Peattie (1898-1964)
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
“The hand is a tool of tools.” Aristotle, On the Soul Recently I was watching a blacksmith work. I was mesmerized. There is something so satisfying and so fitting—indeed, so human—about the ability to do that kind of work. What most struck me is how glad he must be to...read more
“Some men are thought to be obsequious, namely, those who to give pleasure praise everything and never oppose.” “And while for its own sake he [the man virtuous in social interaction] chooses to contribute pleasure, and avoids the giving of pain, he will be guided...read more
“All these things are interconnected.” Xenophon, The Estate Manager Being intentional about life can be exhausting. Sometimes you just feel like saying: “I’m sick of worrying about this stuff. Can’t I just go with the flow, rather than weighing every little thing in...read more
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. Bacon from Acorns springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.