Imagine a tree with leaves. You pick a leaf from the tree and put it on your desk. After some time, the leaf on your desk has changed. It has become brown and wilted. All the other leaves of the tree, the wilted leaf’s siblings so to say, are still green and vivid.
This experiment questions a widely known phrase that says “change is the essence of life.” Wilting is a form of decay – and decay is a change that opposes life.
Something in the tree prevents decay. This is true for everything that lives. A piece of meat (dead flesh) decays within hours. Living flesh can be more than 100 years old, as evidenced by giant turtles and humans. The core aspect of life is decay prevention.
Decay is a change in which an entity becomes less complex. Preventing decay requires the opposite. It requires a change in which an entity becomes more complex. An apt word for such a kind of change is growth.
If growth and decay are equally strong, they balance each other and the entity remains what it is. It stays alive. Like the leaves on the tree. When life starts, such as when a tree develops new leaves in spring, growth is stronger than decay. When life ends, such as when a tree loses its leaves in fall, growth is weaker than decay.
Growth is the essence of life.
The quote “change is the essence of life” is often used to advocate allowing or soliciting changes in one’s life. But some changes may be like wilting. They may be destructive and thus threaten survival.
It needs growth to stay alive. The more you grow, the more you flourish. As I will explain in on of my next blog posts, “The Meaning of Life,” the essence of human life is limitless growth, which is achieved by lifelong growing beyond personal limits over and over again. It is an art of its own to find out which growth serves you in this.
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We know true joy of life from early childhood. As small children we had only biological needs, such as food. When these needs were fulfilled, we curiously explored the world by permanently asking ‘Why?’ and ‘Why not?’ with all our senses. This is also known as “play.” We did not just grow physically, we also grew mentally at a phenomenal speed. Life was beautiful and we enjoyed it to the fullest.
Yet, as we grew older and learned countless rules about how to behave within the social groups to which we belonged, our joy of life diminished. These rules also created mental needs, such as wanting to be seen and loved, which further contributed to our discontent.
True joy of life eludes us, as we are busy following the rules that we have learned and we are busy trying to satisfy the mental needs that arise from these rules. We have learned to call this the search for happiness. But none of the satisfactions that we have learned to look for – food, sex, romance, success, possession, drugs – lead to the kind of satisfaction that we so eagerly desire.
How can we once again experience the deep joy of life that we had when we were little?
To find an answer, it helps to understand why we enjoyed life to the fullest as a child. The reason is simply that we lived our full potential.
This begs the question: What is the full potential of a human?
An answer to this question is in “The Full Potential of a Human.” The full potential of a human is limitlessness.
Living limitless requires to permanently go beyond. Therefore, we can experience true joy, satisfaction, and contentment with life not by being content with what we have achieved but by going beyond. Again and again and again - lifelong.
This is how we lived when we were little. We were never content with what we had achieved. We were not content with crawling but wanted to stand, walk, and run. We were not content with somebody giving us a hand while we walked but wanted to walk alone. We were not content with being fed but wanted to feed ourselves. We were not content with grunting and stammering but wanted to speak all the languages that we heard. We were not content with what we knew about something but asked questions to find out more. We were not content with what we could reach but wanted to reach what was out of reach. We always wanted to know more, achieve more, reach more. This is why we tirelessly explored with all our senses the world and our place in it. When we were little we always yearned to grow and we gave everything to achieve this. Our ravenous curiosity was the power behind living the limitless life we had as a child.
Why did we stop living like that? It happened precisely as told in “The Other Story of the Eagle in the Chicken Coop.” By growing up in a limited and limiting human society in which we saw but humans who live limited lives we simply took on the limited and limiting behavior of our peers and thus inevitably became limited and limiting ourselves.
We live limited lives because we started to be content with what we have achieved. We started to be content with what we have achieved because this is what most people do and because we were told to be content.
Limitlessness is our true nature. Limitation is what we have learned. To be limitless again as the only way of experiencing true joy of life again, we need to become free from our limitations. Our limitations are the rules that we learned, “The Boxes We Are In.”
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The potential of a life form is defined by its behavioral tools. The potential of a bird is to fly. The potential of a fish is to swim. The potential of a cheetah is to run. The full potential of a life form is the full spectrum of the behavior that is possible with its tools. For example, the full potential of a cheetah is to run up to 75 mph.
In nature, all life forms live their full potential. All adult cheetahs can run 68-75 mph. There is no adult cheetah that can only run, say, 25 mph. If there were one, he would quickly die for he would not be able to catch his prey.
Likewise, the potential of a human is defined by a human’s tools. The specifically human tool is the mind. In the book “Consciousness: Its Nature, Purpose, and How to Use It” I explain why the mind is what distinguishes humans from all other life forms on this planet and I explain the mind’s purpose.
Biologically we are apes. The mind enables us to behave different than an ape. Therefore, the human potential is simply to behave different than an ape.
Obviously we humans do this, for we don’t live in the woods anymore as all the other apes do. We also learned to use fire as a tool, which no other life form can do. And we created all the tools that are unique for humankind.
What is the full potential of a human? What is the full spectrum of behavior that is possible with our mind?
As I argue in detail in the book “Consciousness”, there are no limits to the behavior we can perform, not even what we consider the laws of physics. Therefore, the full potential of a human is to have not limits – limitlessness.
If a cheetah had a mind, and would thus be limitless, he would not be content with being able to run 75 mph. He would try to find ways to run faster, either through training or by creating tools. If one day he would reach a limit that he cannot transcend, such as a (bio)physical limit, he would try to go beyond other personal limits, such as learning to swim faster, trying to fly, etc. But a cheetah has no mind and thus he is content with life simply by living his full potential as a cheetah.
The full potential of a human is limitlessness. To live limitlessness means to permanently transcend what we regard or experience as limits.
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