Death and Life

           This paper will discuss two topics: the topic of death in the physical sense and the topic of living a meaningful life. In the first part of the paper I will discuss the definition of death by attempting to answer the question, “When is a human considered dead and no longer living?” In the second part of the paper I will discuss an unrelated topic by addressing the question, “What makes a life meaningful?” I will review materials from in class discussions, the film The Seventh Seal, and information about defining death.

            Death is defined as  “the action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism” (Oxford Dictionaries). In class we discussed when a human is considered dead. One point made in the discussion was that a human body is considered dead when there is no brain activity. This led to a counterargument of people who are in a comatose state and whether or not they should be considered living or dead. Are people in comas dead? People who are in a comatose state still have a heartbeat and breathe, disregard the fact that they are maintaining these normal bodily functions via machine should make no difference. It does not matter that these people are “living off of machines” because their body is still a living organism. The debate is started because the right question was not asked. The discussion should have been about when is a body no longer alive compared to when is a person no longer a person. A person in a comatose state does not maintain their previous personality, they do not have emotions; they are essentially a living organism with no brain activity surviving with the help of machines. In Emergency Medical Technician School with the Chicago Fire Department, students are taught to define death as the ceasing of all bodily functions. When a person is unresponsive, is not breathing, and has no pulse, they are not considered a living being. This definition along with the previous mentioned definition helps people understand death. Death of the physical body can only occur when all functions of a living organism cease to occur. Whether or not brain activity is present, the body can be kept “alive” in the sense that decomposition has not started and the body will continue its normal functions with a different energy source.

            The next part of the paper will cover the discussion of “What makes a life meaningful?” Is it the things we do in life or the things we gain in life that decides if it has been a meaningful life? In the film The Seventh Seal the main character Antonius Block, a knight who participated in the crusades, faced death. Throughout the film he plays chess with the figure that the viewer comes to understand in the physical representation of death. Block wishes to do something, before he is taken by death, which will give his life meaning. Near the end of the film, Block is presented with an opportunity to save a family from being taken by death, and he takes it. While Block and Death play chess, Block knocks over the game board so that the family could slip past death unseen. He believed that in doing this he would save a family from dying and that will be the defining moment that will give his life meaning. So I ask again, what makes life meaningful? Can one act of good make a life meaningful?

            A meaningful life can only be defined as doing something meaningful in your life. For those who give back to society, for those who do something for the greater good, and for those who stand up for a cause, they are the ones who are making their life meaningful. "It’s not the length of life. It’s the meaningfulness of life that matters" (Stark, 11/25/13). We all define our lives by what we want to gain in life. Whether that is spiritually or physically, we all want to achieve our goals of what we describe as success. But is that enough to claim our life as being meaningful?  Is it just about our own personal success or is it about doing something for the greater good of mankind? However, each person defines a meaningful life in different ways and that is where no statement can truly be deciding on being the definition of a meaningful life.

            In this paper I have discussed two topics of discussion that have been brought into class discussions more than once. The first discussion was of the question, “When is a human considered dead and no longer living?” and the second was of the question, “What makes a life meaningful?” These questions have lead to both philosophical discussions and heated debates. With the use of the discussions and debates, references from class films, and outside sources, the paper has taken a step closer to answering these questions.











Works Cited

Oxford Dictionaries "Definition of death in     English." death: definition of death in

 Oxford dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.



The Seventh Seal. Dir. Ingmar Bergman. By Gunnar Fischer. Perf. Max Von Sydow,

 Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Åke Fridell,

 Gunnel Lindblom, and Anders Ek. Svensk Filmindustri, 1956.


Stark H, Nov. 25, 2013, English 1001-023 FYS I: Death and Life, School of the Art

            Institute of Chicago.