Have you ever noticed that lightning and tree roots look the same? What about how the veins of a leaf and the palm of your hand look identical? You can thank Constructural Law for that. According to the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Material Sciences: “The constructal law, stated by Duke’s Adrian Bejan in 1996, is the law of physics that accounts for the phenomenon of evolution (configuration, form, design) throughout nature, inanimate flow systems and animate systems together.”
This law explains this phenomenon with the concept that anything with energy is a flow system. That branch-like shape in the lightning, plants, and your skin? That shape is a flow system. The branches conduct energy, and that shape happens to be the most effective way that energy can flow. It’s the universal shape of life, because life needs energy, and clearly energy needs that shape.
This law has some huge implications. Because it shows that life is energy, and therefore a flow system, it only makes sense that death is the completion of the energy flow cycle. Many people assume that death is something to escape, to cheat, or to mourn. While losing loved ones is horrible, and completely deserving of mourning, it is the separation that is the tragedy. Constructural Law proves that natural death is not a failing or a malfunction that scientists should find a way out of. Natural death is success.
All cycles have ends, and when that end comes, it doesn’t mean that the cycle is broken. It means that it worked. It means that the cycle was healthy or functioning naturally. It completed its journey successfully. So being flow systems, when humans die of natural causes, it means that they have successfully completed their energy flow cycle. In plain terms? Their life was a success, and their death is proof of it.
This may be hard to grapple with considering the negative associations Western culture has with the concept of death. Death is uncertain, and since the beginning of time people have spent their lives trying to figure out what happens afterward. For the first time in human history however, we have a bit of the answer—completion.
What happens after death? We achieve success. As flow systems, as beings of energy, we spent it all in our natural cycles. We were able to have a successful cycle, which can’t happen or be demonstrated to us without a natural death. Natural death isn’t something to get out of. Dying of old age isn’t a failure on humanity’s part, or the body breaking. It’s the opposite. It’s proof that the body works. It is proof that we lived and let energy flow through us flawlessly. Getting older is simply getting further in our cycle—it’s us becoming more successful because we are keeping the energy flowing for longer.
Old age shouldn’t be covered up or masked. As a society we should stop being ashamed of our signs of aging. Wrinkles should be worn with pride. Grey hairs should be something to celebrate. Climbing years should be applauded, and treated as it truly is—a success; an amazing feat fully realized.
Leaves, lightning, lungs, palms, roots, rivers—they all share this universal shape. We all are so interconnected not just in being made of the same matter, and in sharing this planet, but in our physical design and being unified in the same life mission—to die. To live a long life, to let energy flow through us, and to do it so well that the cycle will be able to be completed. Constructural Law is proof that no matter our religious belief system, we all have a purpose in life. We are in fact here for a reason.
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn