The goal of life is not happiness, peace or fulfillment. It is aliveness.
- attributed to Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher, 1623-1662
The goal of life is not happiness, peace, or fulfillment. It is richness of experience or strength of beauty, in community with others. This beauty is not always happy or calm, pleasant or peaceful, purposive or productive. But it is alive and strong. Aliveness is strength of beauty.
- process philosophy
Not humans alone, but all beings, seek to be fully alive. Animals and plants, living cells and organelles: all have a will to live. The desire begins as a yearning to live with some kind of richness of experience, some kind of quality, some kind of satisfaction, relative to the circumstances at hand. It then unfolds into a desire for newer forms of richness, for novel experiences, that are still more harmonious and intense. To live, to live well, and to live better. These are the aims of life.
- process philosophy
Aliveness as Making and Receiving
Aliveness comes down to one thing—consenting to rise, to be dented, impressed, pressed in upon, to rejoin, to open, to ponder, to be where we are in this moment and see what happens, allowing the breath of not knowing to be taken, wanting to see what is there and what is not there. Aliveness springs from our making something of what we experience and receiving what experience makes of us.
- Ann Ulanov
Aliveness as Strength of Beauty
The closest equivalent to the role of "intensity" in Process and Reality is "strength of beauty". This term makes it clear that intrinsic value is to be understood in aesthetic categories. Of course, "beauty" does not refer to the aesthetic properties of nature or art as such. These contribute to the beauty of experience of the beholder. But it is the beauty of the experience as such that is in question. An experience may have considerable strength of beauty even if one is in an ugly environment. The chief ingredients are emotional rather than sensory, although the sensory can certainly attribute to the emotional depths. Thought and memory can also contribute, as can even the ugly environment. Beauty, Whitehead understands as perfection of harmony of the subjectivity of an occasion of experience. Its strength combines two elements, the diversity of ingredients and the intensity with which they are individually felt.
Among process philosophers and theologians, the purpose of life is not to escape from the world. It is to enjoy harmonious and satisfying intensity, aliveness, in community with others, in the circumstances at hand.
The "others" can be other people, plants and animals, hills and rivers, trees and stars. They are not "other" in the sense of being alien to or antagonistic toward the self; but rather in the sense of having their own unique identities worthy of respect and care. The "others" can also be memories of the past and hopes for the future, as present in your own mind and heart, in the here-and-now. And the "others" can be a Deep Aliveness in whose heart the whole of life unfolds. All can be part of a harmonious and satisfying intensity, a strength of beauty, that is known and enjoyed in the immediacy of the present.
An extremely important form of satisfying intensity is love, but it is not the only form. Imagination and playfulness, mindfulness and compassion, listening and wonder, silence and beauty, yearning and questioning - they, too, are forms of satisfying intensity.
God is the Deep Aliveness. When we enjoy aliveness, even for a moment, we are participating in God. Another name for aliveness is wholeness. Not a static wholeness. Not a fixed wholeness. But rather a dynamic wholeness: a Wholeness in the making. This wholeness, too, is God. - Jay McDaniel
Aliveness as Tragic Beauty
Aliveness as Hope
Thirty Seven Forms of Aliveness
In Whitehead’s philosophy, as John Cobb explains above, the closest parallel to “aliveness” is satisfying intensity. In Process and Reality Whitehead takes intensity as the subjective aim of each and every living being, human and more than human, and adds that intensity is enriched when it is harmonious: that is, when it is laded with harmoniously felt relations with others. The yearning for harmonious intensity is a yearning for satisfying forms of aliveness.
It is tempting to think that there are one or two ultimate forms of aliveness: love, for example, or peace, or compassion, or wonder. Perhaps so. Whitehead himself thought "peace" was among the highest of forms. But the value of the spiritual alphabet developed by Spirituality and Practice is that it names many forms of aliveness, all of which, in different contexts, can indeed by satisfying and life-giving. In the house of aliveness there are many rooms: thirty-seven for starters.
God as Deep Aliveness
In The Liberation of Life: From Cell to Community, John Cobb and Charles Birch use the word Life, with an upper-case L, as their name for God. The slide show below shows six of the ways that process philosophers and theologians understand God or Life: (1) a guiding and animating energy of the universe, (2) a spirit ofcreative transformation, (3) the song of the universe, (4) a companion to the world's joys and sufferings, (5) the universe as interwoven with divine love, and (6) the deep mind of the Universe.
To these we can add one more. God is Deep Aliveness. To whatever degree we are attentive and connected, imaginative and playful, loving and forgiving, sensitive to beauty and hospitable to strangers, at peace with ourselves and sensitive to mystery, compassionate and receptive, yearning and humble - we are participating in the Deep Aliveness.
Patterns of Aliveness as Essential to A Just and Sustainable Future
Derived from a trans-and multidisciplinary deep dive into systems theory, cognition theory, architecture, semio-biology, ecology and psychology the Patterns of Aliveness Theory shows the role of patterns as a relational and constituting element in the co-creative process of life towards vitality and resilience. Patterns (of nature or the manifold human interaction systems) emphasize the relational aspect of an arrangement, a constellation, a composition, a co-construction, or a human co-creation. Translating these insights into the practice of transformative change helps us understand how socio-ecological systems as well as human interaction systems can function better. It can guide us to become better stewards of sustainability transformations."