going viral

Is a virus a living organism?

A living organism is supposed to have the following seven characteristics: Movement, Sensitivity, Respiration, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion & Nutrition.

On the face of it, a virus seems to be more passive and more dependent than that. The only thing a virus does from the list is reproduce – but it needs a living host to do it. Does that mean you couldn’t describe it as ‘living’?

If you ignored the structural differences between the two things – between single or multi-cellular organisms and the viruses that infect them – wouldn’t it be true to say that they’re both driven to do the same thing, which is to make more of themselves? In such a way that responds to changes in the genetic environment, making them more resilient and more likely to thrive?

To put it another way, maybe it doesn’t matter how you get there, so long as you get there. And on those terms, maybe the virus could be seen as the more successful organism, living or non-living, because it’s managing to ‘get there’ with far less complication?

I’ve seen viruses described as ‘organisms at the edge of life’ – which seems to acknowledge the extent of the problem apprehending these things. And virology as a science only dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, so there’s a long way to go.

None of which is helping with my cold. But as Sun Tzu once said: To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.

And if I was a virus, I’d definitely have that tattooed on my capsid.

latest poem

This one’s a riff on corporate culture, with a rap-style rhythm (which I suppose makes it a riff-rap). There’s no image with it, so I’ll just casually drop the link in here.


Thanks for reading!


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