Part VII, That All Living

Part VII, That All Living Things Are Unified To God

Nature adds activity to creation, but life adds to nature activity for the sake of a self. When we spoke previously of natural things “moving themselves”, it was always important to add that we said “self motion” only to distinguish nature from art. Nevertheless, just because the natural thing has no external human cause, does not mean that it lacks an external cause of its action: the motion of bodies falling toward one another does not become less natural if we ascribe it to an external cause, nor does the activity of natural selection become any less natural because it requires some external agent. In fact, there is one sense of the word “nature”, namely “ecosystem”, in which nature is necessarily an extraneous cause to any particular nature: for it orders the whole “balance of nature” in the ocean, forest, earth, solar system, etc.

“Nature” then, requires the idea of activity, but it need not be the activity of an intrinsic agent. Natural things, therefore, require passivity, but do not require self agency. It is not even clear what “self” could possibly mean in the case of a non- living natural things. Life, however, cannot be understood apart from some self– by which we mean a being that both is a mover, and the one that benefits from the motion. The cell that dilates its membrane to take in nutrients is the same cell that lives off of them; the same rose that spreads out its leaves is the one which benefits from the sun; the same animal who chases down prey gets to feed himself with it.

But though life is activity by self and for self, it does not follow from this that all goods a living thing seeks are good for it only as a self. When a living thing reproduces, it is is not only good for the self as such, but also for the self as a member of a species. But a species cannot come to be or pass away, since it is neither identical to the individual, nor to a collection of individuals. Reproduction, then, is a participation in the immortal and eternal, regardless of whether one participates in it by desire, or by action. But what desires the immortal and eternal, by that very fact, desires what is perfectly immortal and eternal: and this being all call God. And so to be alive means to be unified to God, not merely in a passive way, but by the most intimate activity of the self.


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