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Excerpted from Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen. Copyright © 1997 by Rachel Naomi Remen. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Can we choose to live? And if so, do we choose survival in the same way that we choose a suit of clothes or a car?"

Rachel Naomi RemenKitchen Table Wisdom, Part 4

There is a tenacity toward life which is present at the intracellular level without which even the most sophisticated of medical interventions would not succeed. The drive to live is strong even in the most tiny of human beings. I remember as a medical student seeing one of my teachers put a finger in the mouth of a newborn and, once the baby took hold, gently lift him partway off the bed by the strength of his suck.

That tenacity toward life endures in all of us, undiminished, until the moment of our death.

The Will to Live

Can we choose to live? And if so, do we choose survival in the same way that we choose a suit of clothes or a car? Many people have come to believe that we do. Yet evidence suggests that survival may not be chosen quite in the same way that we choose a possession. Life is not a possession. Those who intensely wish to live sometimes may die and others, for whom life has little appeal, often linger on. How strange when many of us have an inner experience that there is some dimension of personal choice connected to survival.

In these years of observing survival, I have come to wonder if there isnít a will accessed in dreams and imagery that is a part of some basic encoding at the very center of our personal lives. Here at this deep unconscious level lies the drive to remain incarnate for purposes unknown to the conscious mind, a sort of commitment of our personal life force toward the particular and the concrete. Perhaps hidden in the present debate about personal choice and ultimate survival is an older, more mysterious concept which has been called the will to live.

If this is so, many factors on the unconscious level of things may affect this will, its strength, its coherence, and its tenacity. Our deepest and most unconscious beliefs about our own essential nature, our worthiness to live, may be operating here. Sometimes a kink in the will to live becomes most clearly only when someone is challenged by significant illness.

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