Life–the unquantifiable and ill-defined thing life–takes perfectly ordinary atoms & molecules and gives them a motive force, like throwing a stick into a river. Suddenly, it zips. And here’s the weird part: I cannot take into my body any molecules that have not been transformed by the force of life. Unliving molecules are useless–actually harmful–to my body. Yet the molecules in question need not be alive at the time when I ingest them, only that they once were, as if they earned some kind of degree. Trees can suck from the earth, and lichens from rock, but either of these would poison me.
The answer to this oddness is, of course, that not just any old molecules will do. My body needs very specific chemical forms of molecules formed by life. By taking vitamins, we have finally found a way to fake our bodies out, thinking it has found those life-transformed molecules when it really hasn’t. But one cannot live on vitamins alone.
And when I die, my molecules will be on the loose again, ready to be snatched up by other lives.