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Living and Surviving: a Comparison Essay

It’s a commonly heard phrase – “I want to live and not just exist,” but after years of the same trite, dull sentiment, it seems flimsy and false. But to think deeper – it’s not nearly as fabricated as it seems. Living and surviving are two entirely separate actions, even though living does depend on existence.

To explain the difference between living and existence, a definition is in order. Living, as defined by science, is the feat of not being dead, while existence is a blanket term that can be applied to everything in the universe. Thoughts and theories exist; same as rocks and soil. In that plane of thought, living and existence are separate, though slightly similar. To take it a step higher, and be human-centric, living would more likely be defined as having a soul, or at least, sentience. This would exclude, say, trees and bushes from the living category. Existence, then, might be elevated to having a beating heart and working lungs. Either way of viewing it, living and being are two different actions. In this paper, the focus is on second set of definitions. Living and existence, though different, are not mutually exclusive.

To live, one must exist – it’s the only way. There must have a working body in order to have a thriving mind. But at the same time, it is entirely possible to exist and not live. It’s much like how a person is an animal, yet not all animals are people. To look at life’s other definition, souls and spiritualism are added to the mix and how that relates to human existence. Everyone has a soul, it could be argued, but most take it further than just simple possession of such. “What are you doing with your life?” it’s asked, taking “living” as something that can be measured. Someone who never deviates from routine, who has no hopes, could be considered “lifeless” by that perspective, while another who lives only to chase their dreams and enjoy their time on Earth, would be thriving.

Here is a plethora of quotes, sayings, and speeches. Like the band Switchfoot sings, “I want to thrive, not just survive”. Living and existing, such a broad subject. So many different ways to define and redefine, each coming to the same conclusion: The two are different, even despite the fact that life depends on survival. Life, in general, is seen as a fully awakened consciousness; existence is simply breathing, possessing a beating heart and a pulsing brain…but not a host of thoughts. But no matter how the terms are defined, they’re always different ideas.


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