Stop Saying “Living Things.” Beings Are Not “Things”

Here are a few of my favorite BEINGS

Very Unpopular Strong Opinions Blog by Christyl Rivers

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Your mind is messed up

It’s always baffled me that we refer to beings as things. Think about the verb, “being” as in “To be, or not to be,” That is the question.

Here’s another question. Why call a process, a thing? It just confuses and programs your mind to distort reality.

If you are not a rock, a shoe, or a window, you are in the process of being. A tree, a flower, a bird, and a blade of grass are all in the process of being. They are alive, growing, changing, communicating and interacting with the world.

Although we may argue that a rock is made from former “living bits,” they, are, although dynamic, not living in the same sense as others in the process of being. Mountains, rivers, and many other “things” –even stars and planets — may be argued to have a life, but these too, are so complex in their “being” that we don’t have the right vocabulary for them.

Respect for others

Let’s just start with obviously living “beings.”

It’s perhaps a small thing to most people. We should “love all living things.” Except, when we make objects, mentally, emotionally, and in our brain programming, we lose something important.

The first step in destruction and genocide is dehumanization. With other living beings, though, we discount their very belonging to life.

We miss their essence, their value, their urgent belonging. We lose ourselves.

I cannot help but think that this is at least in part, because we don’t see “living things” as life.

When Aunt Sally or Uncle Bob dies, we don’t say “We just put it in the funeral home.” It is disrespectful to call a living being a “thing.” “It” is disrespectful language.

Likewise, don’t call your dead dog, cat, pine tree, roadkill, birds in the trees “it.” Don’t call the living, communicating life-giving community we know as a forest full of “things.”

Don’t call the plants we need to save in plains, wetlands, canyons, or mangroves “things.” Don’t rob them of their being and they won’t rob us of all the work they do to protect, defend, and even create our lives.

Right now, we are losing lots of life on the planet. Nearly 40,000 scientists, seeing that one in four species is threatened by extinction, see the biodiversity crisis as more serious than the climate crisis.

For many of us in psychology, sociology, and biology, we do see a distinction between the climate crisis and extinction, but we see many garbage tons of overlap, too. They are entirely intertwined.

That word: “life.”

It too, is rendered almost useless. The phrase “pro-life” could not be more anti-biosphere survival, at least in one misuse of the word.

Life is the biosphere. This is the only home we have ever known. It is populated by limitless beings most beautiful and most wonderful, and also, critically, most NECESSARY for our lives to continue.

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Christyl Rivers, Phd.

Christyl Rivers, Phd.

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.