Fires are made of wood, and we are just food. / by Anran Li

"Fires are made of wood, and we are just food." - Anran Li

I posted this statement on Facebook a while back (a faux pas as bad as attributing yourself to a quote) and stumbled upon it again today, confusing myself. This happens a lot. As a result of my inability to convey my ideas, I can't understand my own words. After mulling over this for a day, I finally remembered.

While eating one day, I was pondering whether we are all just food. I thought to myself: we are fuel for some other organism or process even if we have more or less escaped the food chain on a macro level. But let's say we are sealed in a coffin and sent to space in order to prevent our matter from being reused in some other chemical process. We've stopped being food. Energy transfer aside, it follows that if you can stop being food even for a moment, then being food is not an inherent property of being a human. 

But that's no fun. I wanted to convince myself that we are all just food, so I tried another approach. Well, I thought, I have been consuming food since I was born. In theory, everything that I consume is food. You might argue that there can be foreign organisms and substances, some harmful, that contribute to our being, such as microbiomes, ultraviolet radiation, or a dosage of something toxic. Arguably, we can disregard these as they can be substituted with food or are not an integral, critical part. So, we can deduce that the only matter that humans consume out of necessity is, all of it, food. And, as a system, if we are only taking in food, then we are made of food. To prove this point, imagine a system, such as a machine, whose parts are all metal. We can deduce that this machine is made of metal. We can reduce this statement to "the machine is metal." Thus, we are made of food to "we are food."

"Hold your horses!," you shout, unable to accept my newfound understanding of the human condition, "what about the mass that I was born with?" To maintain that we are food, we need to prove that we have been food all along. The development of a human from inception to birth is by means of the parents consuming food and turning parts of it into egg and sperm cells, from which we are nurtured in the womb by means of food from our parents. The process applies to our parents' origin as well. We follow this lineage and eventually trace backwards along the path of evolution. Some questions pop up: Are shells food? (yes) What if an animal appropriates a shell? (yes, as the appropriated part is food) What about multicellular organisms? (yes, all parts are food). Can the first cell be considered food? (in the interest of finishing this blog post, yes as all constituent parts are food).

At this point, I imagine I had a splitting headache and gave in to my own mind game. Perhaps the most contestable part of this argument is that we are our constituent parts. I circumvented this debate using the rhetorical device above, rather than logic. So the conclusion is valid if we accept that fire is made of the wood it consumes (synecdoche for combustibles and oxygen in this thought-experiment). Thus, "fires are made of wood, and we are just food."

Then, it suddenly dawned on me: EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS FOOD. Everything came about from consumption. Things that are consumed are food. All integral parts to a system come from consuming food. All of these systems are made of food. Everything is food! Wow!

But back to the main point: how does one post something like this on Facebook?

I guess one does not.