By Roland Watson

At this point in the series, I want to suggest a fourth factor that underlies our nature. This is simply life itself, or what I will call the life force.

I believe that what is most significant is not what we are trying to do in life, but instead, what life is trying to do through us. Indeed, I am not the first person to ask this question. I actually read it in an essay, titled A Commentary on the Being Electric, by William Daniel Drake. I agree that this may well be the most important question of all: What is life trying to do through us?


I define the life force as the motivation that underlies the common drive of all living things. Ooh - that sounds mysterious. It's not. A real world manifestation of the life force, which we have all heard of before, is instinct: our basic instincts to survive and to procreate.

I want to focus on the first, the instinct to survive, meaning, to avoid death. At least, that is how we usually view it.

I think this view is wrong, or, said another way, that it is inaccurately phrased. The life force is not a negative, an instinct to avoid death. Rather, it's the opposite: a positive. We all share the drive simply to live: To experience the form of existence that we call life, to do this to the fullest, and to have as much fun as possible in the process.

This idea recalls the song, Jimmy Tomorrow, by The Waitresses. It's really good, and in many different ways. One of its lyrics is a perfect definition of the life force. It says: "I guess I set impossible goals, and I don't know when to quit. Is that it?"

Relative strength of the life force

If you have a strong internal drive to push it, to push - and go beyond - your limits; if you are willing - even eager - to confront the unknown, and overcome your fear of it; if you will never lie down, and give up; then you have a strong life force.

Of course, you might object to this. You might ask: How can the strength of the life force, and which presumably all living things share, not only people, vary from one being to the next? Personally, I don't think it can.

But, it is possible for the strength or power of the life force in a particular being to be weakened - or eroded. For other species, this would largely be through injury. For people, though, our life force can be harmed by negative social influences - by behavioral form. These are the influences that tell us to give up, and just to follow orders: To do not what we want to do, but instead what the people shouting the orders want us to do.

The purpose of life

The existence of the life force also raises the question of its purpose. Why do we live? Is it simply to satisfy our senses for a while, and then to die? Why is there life, any life at all?

These are difficult questions, and I will have a lot to say about them. I even have an answer to the question of what life is trying to do through us.

I don't want to be a tease, though. The answer is complicated. It's more than I can cover in this article, or any one article. The last few series in Part 4 of the website are devoted to it.

For now, one way to think of the life force is like the fourth dimension, time. Although it has a tremendous impact on our behavior, we can't actually see it, or isolate it. But, we know it is there. Furthermore, our innate appreciation of art, and motherhood, both the creation of new life - of new self-perpetuating forms - is proof of it.

Human nature so far

We can now sum up everything that we have reviewed so far, about human nature. Our nature - yours and mine - who we are in the real world - results from the interaction of these four factors: our genes, behavioral form, free will, and life force. These factors are what translate our needs and motivations into our behavior. However, at this point it is only our intended behavior.

In the next article, I will look at the final link: How we get from our intentions to what we actually do.

© Roland Watson 2013