It is likely that the most important characteristic of life is replication of itself, either directly from itself, as bacteria and humans do, or by causing another life to replicate it, as a virus may. Whichever way is used, the number of individuals of that kind of life increases. New individuals of the life form come into being, while older individuals die.
Life also feeds, often on other lives. There are some, often described as “lower” life forms, which use the sun as an energy source and absorb necessary chemicals for growth and replication from their surroundings in order to manufacture the more complex chemicals which are needed for replication and survival. Green algae and trees are two examples of these. These are the plants.
Other life feeds on decaying bodies of life that has died, absorbing the nutrients into their own bodies and using that for growth. Bacteria and fungi are often like this.
Yet a third kind may capture and kill other life and ingest their substance for growth. These are the animals. Amoeba and humans are of this type. Some restrict themselves to ingesting plants, some to animals and some ingest both.
Each form of life has developed a mechanism which permits it to sustain itself and to generate new life. Since these feeding mechanisms arose without intent or guidance, they just are and have no morality to them. In many cases, the life form has no option but to follow its nature and ingest another life to survive and grow.
As a sentient life form, humans, can make a choice. We developed in the universe to feed on both plant and animal life. We can choose to feed only on plants, only on animals, or on both as we evolved to do. There is no right or wrong whichever choice is made.
Since we are so dependent on the bodies of other lives to sustain us, it would be appropriate for us to show respect for the lives that we end so we may eat them. This is often overlooked, particularly since much of our food supply comes from anonymous sources through commercial enterprises, divorcing us from the lives we consume. Respect is due to the lives we must end so we can ingest their bodies. Since we must kill in order to eat, we should surely use as much of the life’s body as we can to show our respect for it. Doing so makes their life purposeful. Otherwise it becomes just the pointless ending of a life merely to dispose of the body in a rubbish tip, a practice which shows the greatest contempt for that life.
Death comes to all life after a shorter or longer time, whether that span is measured in seconds or in centuries. Everything dies. It is an unchanging law of the universe. Death is all around us, but it is not to be feared. Death brings more life. Death is essential to promote life. Death feeds future life.
Following death and decay our physical matter returns to the universe and will eventually be recycled, perhaps into other life forms. Eventually, in some solar event, it will be dispersed throughout our part of the universe and, perhaps, beyond. Our physical atoms may not be destroyed, although they may be converted into energy and reused. They may eventually become a part of some other physical thing, perhaps living, perhaps not. Our atoms and their energy will remain for as long as the universe remains, essentially forever. It is in this manner, and this manner alone, that we are immortal. The energy in our substance is an eternal component of the universe. Surely, we have no choice but to just accept our miniscule place in it and simply enjoy the life it has given us. As the song puts it:–
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
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