How do we judge life, as a quality? Is it merely a question of a functioning brain and heart, or why would we look on invalids with a pity that seems to suggest lost potential?
It would seem to be quantitative as well, leading to the assessment that the young are more alive than the old, the healthy than the infirm, and the sane and rational than the mentally afflicted. Seeking a summation of what that yardstick must look like, by which we separate the living from the moribund, it would seem thus: the freedom to conceive thoughts relative to the common world that we all perceive, and to enact those thoughts if we choose to do so, combined whit a proclivity toward inventing such thoughts, both often and variously.
This distinction then also separates the rich from the poor, the morally constricted from the amoral, the waking man from the dreamer, the city-dweller from the country man (because of the greater variety of possibilities), and the contemplative from the reactionary.
From this conception, the most vivacious individual conceivable would be a male, due to the preferences accorded by our culture, living in a culturally active part of the world, of an accepted racial background, young, wealthy, free from any burden of religious duty, intelligent, somewhat philosophical (but not morosely so), in perfect health, strong, energetic, virile, abiding in the heart of an active metropolis, and with every door of opportunity open to him. This also implies acceptance by his social group, the approbation of the many, good breeding and family, and an excellent reputation.
Such a man would see the world as his oyster, and we consider him so full of life, that our envy would provoke considerable opposition to his progress; although of course he would affably overcome that, palliating us such that we would actually support him, and continue his rise to pre-eminence.
With this is mind, the exact opposite – the dead among the dead – would resemble a poor, old man or woman, afflicted with some debilitating condition, and forgotten by the world. So dead, in fact, that society has ceased to regard them, and even their infrequent visitors – perhaps family caught in the trap of duty – look on with lugubrious eyes, counting the days they might have remaining.
Such is the fallacy recorded by our culture, who consider that the body is the key to the purpose of life.