Why are we living? LO30754

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 11/04/03

Replying to LO30745 --

Dear Organlearners,

[Host's Note: At, it is so very good to hear your voice again here! We
all wish you the very best! ..Rick]

Chris Klopper <syntagm@icon.co.za> wrote under
Subject: Update on AT LO30745

>I would like to thank all the list members who have asked me to
>convey their best wishes to AT. I have done so and it has
>contributed greatly to his convalescence, he deeply appreciates
>your interest in and concern for his health.
>At is now back at home and I spoke to him this morning. He is
>feeling much better but will have to regain all his strength. I think
>it will be sometime before he returns to his office and his PC.

Greetings dear Chris and others,

Thank you for all your best wishes for my speedy recovery. I did not
expect them and Chris did not tell me that he had informed you, but i
am glad that I got them. They meant much to me.

I got pneumonia caused by a virus. In other words, antibiotics were
useless. I was in the high care unit for seven days and four days in
an ordinary ward. I had a high fever for five days in the HCU.
Unfortunately, my heart has deteriorated so much as a result of
hemachromatosis that it was not able to cope with the stress caused by
pneumonia. I had a couple of times tachycardial attacks -- the upper
heart beating twice as fast as the lower heart, about 200 bpm. Were it
not for modern medicine, they would not have been corrected so that i
would have exited this world.

(I did this morning a quick search with Google's advanced search
engine on the topic "viral pneumonia". Do it to imagine what
catastrophy can hit humankind and the capacity of your organisation to
react effectively to it.)

I have "let" the third pint of blood last Thursday. The iron content
of my blood has dropped from 1 890% to 1 720%. It makes me excited --
light at the end of the tunnel.

It had been an ordeal for me not to have in hospital my books with me,
a computer to record my thoughts and to browse internet. All that i
could do was to observe what goes on around me and to think, think and
think. I want share my thoughts with you. I do hope that they will not
depress you, but let your own mind explore a vital topic which is
seldom done

I saw good physicians making spiritual contact with their patients
while observing them closely. I saw bad ones keeping a distance from
their patients and moving to the next one as soon as possible. I saw
among them passion or indifference, tears or a business attitude,
vigilance when others sleep or doing the rounds in scheduled office
hours. It was two worlds flowing together, but never mixing like the
Rio Negro (black river) and Rio Branco (white river) flowing into the
Amazon river.

I wondered whether the nurses and patients were aware of it or if it
was just my imagination. I could not make sure because the patients
were too ill to talk and the nurses knew their position. Whether
actual or imaginative, these two worlds flowing together, but never
mixing, were very real to me. The one world is that of reaching out
with care and the other world is that of hauling in another prey.
Since i could not put my thoughts into script and thus paint a rich
picture, i weighed my thoughts against each other. Eventually they
converged into one single question:- Why are we living?

Why do we live? We did not choose to come into life and most of us
will not choose to exit it. I myself in the early nineties became very
depressed and decided to commit suicide. My dear wife saved me in the
nick of time. Since i was recently diagnosed with hemachromatosis
(iron overload in the body), my wife and i studied this disease
extensively. One of its many symptoms is a deterioration of the
endocrine system. The pituitary gland is part of this system. When it
begins to fail, somatic (bodily) depression sets in which could
ultimately result in suicide. I thought i had chosen suicide, but
today i know that it was an unavoidable reaction. Thus i wonder
whether anybody can choose to exit life. It seems to me that such a
tragic event is rather forced by conditions beyond the person's

My question here is not what life entails nor how we live. The "what"
and "how" are the first two loops of learning. My question concerns
the third loop of learning -- the "why" of living. For example, we had
on-and-off a dialogue on the purpose of learning -- the "why" of
learning. We uncovered many viewpoints on it. We also touched upon the
purpose of many other typical human activities. It seems as if purpose
and human activity go hand in hand -- as if humans are needed to give
purpose to anything whether living or inanimate.

But when it comes to living, it is definitely not an exclusive human
activity. Plants and animals as well as micro-organisms also live. But
since living is not an exclusive human activity, can we speculate on
the purpose of living? Yet the question "Why are we living" has been
haunting me since my hospitalisation. For example, we have to live in
order to learn as individuals. Is it not likewise the case that a
human organisation first has to live before it can emerge into a
learning organisation?

I can write pages on the "what" and "how" of living, but the more i
think about its "why", the more i have to admit how little i know! I
was brought up in a Christian society in which it was confessed that
the purpose of all living species is to glorify God. But as a reborn
Christian i am compelled to scrutinise this confession like all
others. I now find that it is a purpose given by religious people to
all living species. It seems to me that without religion this purpose
cannot exist. Yet the question:- "Why are we living?" still haunts me.

The longer i stayed in hospital, the clearer it came to me that the
purpose of all the physicians and hospital personnel is at least to
keep patients alive. It is the purpose of both worlds flowing
together, but never mixing. In the one world this purpose is requisite
to the recovery of the patients' health. In the other world it seems
to be necessary to make a living out of them. But "to stay alive" is
no answer for me to the question "why are we living?"

When i think of irreversible self-organisation or complex adaptation,
i am tempted to use these models as an answer. But they actually
resort under the question "how are we living" rather than "why are we
living?" Similarly, in order to live several other things are
essential like biochemical reactions (anabolic and catabolic) and the
arrangement of the body into organelles, cells and organs. These
essential things can be used to answer the "what" and the "how", but i
think they cannot answer the "why".

Not only are several things essential in order to live, but is life
itself essential to several other things like propagation and
speciation as well as many mental activities in the case of the human
species. For example, a dead human cannot learn or organise. But like
above i feel that this essentialness of life cannot also be used as an
answer to the question "why are we living?"

While i was in hospital a few other patients actually died rather than
recovered. I myself was two times close to death. Were it not for my
physician who knows that i have hemachromatosis and how far the
various organs have deteriorated, his effective actions to keep me
alive could not have been taken. In those two worlds flowing togther,
but never mixing, i was fortunate to drift along the world reaching
out rather than the world hauling in. I think that should i have
drifted in the latter world, i would not have lived to write this

Can i say that i was lucky? As for me, no! I can only answer the
question "why am i living?" with "I am living by the grace of God". I
know that it is a religious answer and that it merely applies to me.
But i will keep on seeking the answer to the question "why are WE
living?" I invite fellow learners to explore in dialogue the answer to
this question.

I ought to have stopped now. But i still have to tell that i see
clearer than ever before that life is the "umlomo" (centre or
mouthpiece) of the associativity pattern of wholeness, i.e.,

   "material world" * life * "spiritual world"

Without life these two worlds cannot be connected into one whole.
Death breaks these two worlds apart by removing life as the "umlomo"
of the associativity pattern of wholeness. Is this the answer to the
question "why are we living?", i.e., are we living to manifest the
wholeness of the universe? I wonder because of all the human slaughter
on this world. If this is actually the answer, then inflicting death
can never be justified.

I also got a deeper insight in the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. His wholeness with God as well as with humankind
demonstrated that the unlomo "life" between the "material world" and
the "spiritual world" need not to become broken by death. No wonder
that He dared to claim in advance to His crucifiction:- "I am the
life, the way and the truth."

I now strongly suspect that being a living organisation (a-la De Geus)
is essential for an ordinary organisation to emerge into a learning
organisation (a-la Senge). Just as a dead human cannot become a
learning individual, a dead organisation cannot become a learning
organisation. So somewhere in future we need a dialogue on "Dead or
Living Organisations". But let us for now tackle the question "why are
we living?" I will appreciate your inputs very much.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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