A LEVEL LIFE

The difference between living and existing

Like Jasmine, I have not posted for a while, 56 days to be exact. There was nothing in my life I really wanted to write about, but I read a quote from Oscar Wilde earlier.

What is the difference between living and existing? On the surface they seem like they go hand in hand. Oscar Wilde said, ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’

Existing is necessary. To eat, and sleep, and breathe. You do not do these things because you want to, but because it is necessary to survive. These things are somewhat (and not in a philosophical way), innate. Regardless of what we believe, these things come naturally to us. They always have, and they always will. To stop existing, we have to go against everything our instincts tell us.

Living is a completely different story. It is subjective. What might be living to one person, could be dying to someone else. Essentially, you could argue that it is to bring meaning to your existence. To live is to laugh, and do whatever you want to do. Knowing this, it is much easier not to live, than it is to not exist. Or maybe rather, forget to live. We can easily do things we don’t want to do. But how? Surely everything we do, every insignificant task we occupy ourselves with, ultimately is our choice? Even if we didn’t enjoy it, it is what we wanted to do to some extent. So, living cannot be classified as ‘doing what you want to do’. Instead, we can say living is doing what you enjoy. Nobody lives all the time then. We don’t walk through our lives enjoying every single second. There are moments of enjoyment in-between moments of doing what is necessary. So there are moments of living in-between moments of existing. Living is short-term, existing is all the time. You can live and exist, you can exist and not live, but you cannot live and not exist. If we have to exist, it is not wrong. But is it wrong to exist and not live? More importantly, is it a choice?

As animals, our primary instinct is to survive, to exist. As far as we are aware, humans are much more than anything around us. We don’t enjoy just existing, we have to live. To make dreams, and goals, and decide what we want to achieve in this world that we have created. We have decided that existing has no purpose. But if we are surviving and contributing to our ecosystem, or food chain, or whatever you want to call it, surely that is the only thing that is necessary? Everything around us, is what we have created. We have decided that in our made up world, we need to bring made up meaning, and enjoy made up things. But if we enjoy anything other than just existing, it is irrelevant. If we enjoy existing, is that living?

-Lilla

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