Created By: kchishol on February 24, 2014 Last Edited By: DAN004 on July 8, 2014
Troped

Living Is More Than Surviving

Life should be more than simply survival, but should also be for higher purpose while you are at it.

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DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


According to our new arrival
Life is more than mere survival
We just may live the good life yet.
—Theme song to Mr. Belvedere

There are situations when characters are in a dangerous situation and steps must be taken to survive, whether it is keeping safe from natural dangers, or escaping from the consequences of follies of their civilization.

However, this can be taken too far when the result is the characters constantly living in fear or complacency without end, such hiding from the world even when the situation has changed or there are responsibilities to recognize.

This Aesop comes when at least one character begins to realize that all their community's focus on survival is producing a life that means nothing beyond giving into their fears or sloth.

Instead, the characters realize that they have to have more in their lives, something to live or work for. This puts them in conflict with the others who refuse to change and demand the dissenters fall back in line and re-enter their shell. This will climax with the heroes saying something like "No, I'm tired of surviving where the only the thing waiting us is death, I want something to live for!"

In the end, the heroes manage to convince the whole community to leave their stifling fear and enter the world with all its risks and work for something constructive and meaningful. As a result, everyone finds that they are happier and up to the challenge.

This stems back to how humans are called "homo sapiens" for good reason: every creature on the world, including humans, have the instinct to survive, but only humans (other sapient species in speculative fiction notwithstanding) can think beyond survival - that is, comfort, wealth, expression, and many more.

In Pyramid of Needs by Abraham Maslow, this trope is fulfilling everything above level 2.

This, in a way, is the opposite of Ambition Is Evil: that is when trying to improve your lot in life is a bad thing, probably leaving you Lonely at the Top. This trope is when having no ambition beyond not dying early is a bad thing.

See also We Have Become Complacent and Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. Compare Social Darwinist who put too much "survival of the fittest" in their minds. Contrast Nothing Left to Do but Die.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • This is pretty much the Central Theme of Casshern Sins. During the whole series the titular character is the only immortal being left in a dying world, who struggles to recover his memeories and find a purpose. Of course after finding out he was responsable for the current state of the world via the death of Luna it gets worse, and then he resolves to find Luna again due to rumors of her return. Too bad she's now...different since now she only giving life without any purpose other than create a deathless world, since now she finds it disgusting. Casshern pretty much calls her out on this:
    Casshern: Even though there is life, no one here is living it. Life is overflowing and they are merely drinking their fill. But Dio and all the people I've met on my journey aren't like that... they're.. they're more... they were blazing with fire. They were torches burning with life[...]If you've forgotten death... then you've forgotten what it truly means to be alive.
  • Near the end of YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke Urameshi gets conflicted when he finds out that he has demon blood within him, making him wonder if it's worth living and to just live being a demon. Through the support of his friends and mentors, especially with his childhood friend Keiko, Yusuke decided that it's worth living since he had been able to protect the world from demonic invasions and help prevent the netherworld from having a civil war due to the loss of Raizen. Yusuke, in the end, decided to use his heritage to help skeptical demons and humans understand one another.
  • Attack on Titan has this trope in the form of Eren and Armin, who believe that living safe within the walls is merely surviving, and that truly living can only be possible when mankind is free.

Film
  • The Croods has Eep the Cavewoman confront her Father and his obsession with merely surviving in fear, "That wasn't LIVING! That was just.... "Not Dying"! There's a difference."
  • Jesus Of Montreal. When the lead character is confronted by a priest who wants to kill their iconoclastic play to be on the safe side, he responds, "There is more to life than waiting for death!"
  • WALLE. The human captain sums up the fight against the ship's computer who has been effectively keeping the humans prisoner with "I don't want to survive, I want to live!"
  • Braveheart. When asked why he risks death to fight for Scottish independence, William Wallace answers "Every man dies. Not every man really lives."
  • Lion King: 1/2's entire early plot is Timone leaving the meerkats because "All we do is dig so we can hide and hide so we can dig!"

Literature
  • Discussed by Dresden and Ortega in Death Masks:
    I thought you guys drank blood," I said.
    "It's all we really need," Ortega said.
    "Then why do you have anything else?"
    Ortega held up the bottle. "Life is more than mere survival. All you need is the water, after all. Why drink beer?"
Later that conversation...
"The offer to make me into a blood-drinking monster in eternal slavery to you? Why would I want to do that?"
"It is the only way to keep your life," Ortega said.
I felt the anger coalescing into rage. My upper lip curled away from my teeth, baring them in a snarl. "I thought life is more than mere survival."
Ortega's expression changed. It was only for a second, but in that moment I saw furious rage, arrogant pride, and violent bloodlust on his face. He regained his calm quickly, but traces of the hidden emotions thickened his accent.
"So be it. I will kill you, wizard."
  • In the Philip K. Dick short story "The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out of Its Tree", Joe Contemptible is driven to despair by his unfulfilling life:
    "I'm not married. I've got no wife. Nothing. Just my damn job at the record store. All those damn German songs and those bubblegum rock lyrics; they go through my head night and day, constantly, mixtures of Goethe and Heine and Neil Diamond. ... So why should I live on? Call that living? It's existence, not living."
  • In the Warrior Cats Super Edition Firestar's Quest, Leaf uses this as a reason as to why they should join the new SkyClan.
    "Yes, I'll join," Leaf assured him. "If the Clan really works how you say it will, then cats will have a purpose. We'll be more than just rogues, just living to stay alive."
  • The second book of The Dark Elf Trilogy starts with Drizzt realizing that after ten years of surviving alone in the Underdark, he is becoming too much of an instinct-driven animal.

Live-Action TV
  • There's a civilisation-wide example of this in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk destroys a computer that was keeping a planet's people in a stagnant, mollycoddled existence, and argues that this isn't a Prime Directive violation because the people didn't really have their own culture at all.
  • In Game of Thrones, a furious Daenerys confronts Mirri Maz Duur with this trope when her healing methods keep Khal Drogo alive, but in a permanent vegetative state. Mirri throws it right back:
    Daenerys: I spoke for you. I saved you!
    Mirri Maz Duur: Saved me? Three of those riders had already raped me before you saved me, girl. I saw my god's house burn, there where I had healed men and women beyond counting. In the streets I saw piles of heads... the head of the baker who makes my bread, the head of a young boy that I had cured of fever just three moons past. So... tell me again exactly what it was that you saved?
    Daenerys: Your life.
    Mirri Maz Duur: Why don't you take a look at your Khal? Then you will see what life is worth, when all the rest is gone.
  • Monty Python's Lion Tamer sketch features a 45-year old chartered accountant who wants to do "something exciting, something that will let me live!". However, he appears to have confused lions and anteaters, and so backs down when he learns exactly what lion taming entails.
  • Barney Miller: In the episode "The Slave" the squad learns that a Burmese diplomat has a slave. They try to convince the slave that he shouldn't be one:
    Wojo: What do you get outta bein' bossed around all the time?
    William: I eat.
    Wojo: So?
    William: I know many who don't.
    Harris: Man, there is more to life than just having something to eat.
  • An episode of the Highlander series discussed this. An immortal starts claiming to be Methos, the oldest living immortal, and preaching that all immortals should give up violence and The Game. When the real Methos goes to talk to the pretender, (without revealing who he is) he notes that the pretender is making a huge target out of himself, as a lot of immortals will want to claim the power of a 5,000 year old man. This exchange follows:
    Fake Methos: Can anyone live for 5,000 years and say they did nothing? Risked nothing? Merely stayed alive with nothing else to show for it? It'd be pointless.
    Real Methos: Some people would say that experience was enough. That it was worth saving.

Video Games
  • In Mirror's Edge this trope is one of the most important issues in the game. It exposes the opposing viewpoints between Celeste and Faith. The two have a heart-to-heart about their dystopian society. Celeste complains that she is tired of surviving instead of living; runners deliver messages to stick it to the man, but they must dodge bullets and navigate dangerous routes every step of the way. The antithesis of runners are the people living in the city. They ignore or are oblivious to the oppressive society they live in, and are comfortable with their lack of control and privacy.
  • One of Cthulhu Saves the World's many pamphlet shelves contains "Zombie Thrival Guide", which will, supposedly (you can't read it, it's only advertised), tell you how to thrive during a Zombie Apocalypse instead of merely surviving it.
  • In Persona 4, exploring Yosuke's social link after the battle with his Shadow self reveals that he liked Saki despite her hatred for him and his family for Junes' presence in Yasoinaba, which was ruining local businesses. At first, he was sad and upset that his family had to move from the city to the countryside since his father was appointed as the head manager of Junes. As time passes in the story (and through more interactions with Yosuke on his social link), Yosuke has learned to appreciate the city and wants to help solve the mystery not only to help stop the killer before more victims are found and protect the inhabitants, but to live and be a better person, despite Saki's hate for him.
  • Fallout3: This is one of the things President Eden states as he announces Project Purity. After describing how nearly all water is contaminated and people have to use makeshift purifiers to clean tiny amounts of water at a time...
    President Eden: But that's not really living, is it? You're simply existing, America, postponing death for a day or two. Well, I'm gonna tell you, right here, right now, those days are at an end!

Western Animation
  • An episode of Gargoyles examined this trope.
    Coldstone: You said that destroying my brother is the only way to survive. Is that all there is for us, mere survival?
    Demona: Isn't that enough?
    Goliath: No. Gargoyles protect. It is our nature. Our purpose. To lose that is to be corrupt. Empty. Lifeless.

Real Life
  • A quote attributed to Jack London illustrate this (only the firsst line is confirmed as being his):
    I would rather be ashes than dust!
    I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
    I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
    The function of man is to live, not to exist.
    I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
    I shall use my time.
    • Others include:
    "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
    "I'd rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet."
Community Feedback Replies: 66
  • February 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Refer to Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs. Using the pyramid, this trope is fulfilling everything above level 2.
  • February 25, 2014
    RoseBride
    This is pretty much the Central Theme of Casshern Sins. During the whole series the only inmortal being left in a dyingworld, struggles to recover his memeories and find a purpose. Of course after finding out he was respoinsable for the current state of the world via the killing of Luna it gets worse , and then he resolves to find Luna again due to rumors of her return too bad she's now...different since now she only giving life without any purpose other than create a deathless world, since now she finds it disgusting Casshern pretty much calls her on this:
    Casshern: Even though there is life, no one here is living it. Life is overflowing and they are merely drinking their fill. But Dio and all the people I've met on my journey aren't like that... they're.. they're more... they were blazing with fire. They were torches burning with life[...]If you've forgotten death... then you've forgotten what it truly means to be alive.
  • February 25, 2014
    Arivne
  • February 25, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Barney Miller: A UN diplomat is discovered to have a slave. Harris & Wojo try to make him understand that there's more to life than survival.

  • February 25, 2014
    robinjohnson
    • In Wall E, when the captain is arguing with robots who are programmed to help the human race survive, he exclaims: "I don't want to survive, I want to live!"
    • Shakespeare did this in Hamlet:
      What is a man
      If his chief good and market of his time
      Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
  • February 25, 2014
    frosty
  • February 25, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Loving More To Life Than Survival.

    Compare Social Darwinist who put too much "survival of the fittest" in their minds.
  • February 25, 2014
    Lakija
    ^^Ooh, I love Surviving Is Not Living. It doesn't sound dialoguey. ^Although I like that too. Redirects Are Free though. :)

    I keep hearing this trope in different works.

    • In Mirrors Edge this trope is one of the most important issues in the game. It exposes the opposing viewpoints between Celeste and Faith. The two have a heart-to-heart about their dystopian society. Celeste complains that she is tired of surviving instead of living; runners deliver messages to stick it to the man, but they must dodge bullets and navigate dangerous routes every step of the way. The antithesis of runners are the people living in the city. They ignore or are oblivious to the oppressive society they live in, and are comfortable with their lack of control and privacy.
  • February 25, 2014
    richeygator
    in "12 years a slave" a movie/book about a slave he was talking about the love and care of his family during the middle he says “I don’t want to just survive…I want to live.”

    not sure how to structure this into a example(im kind of a beginner to tvtropes)
  • February 26, 2014
    dspeyer
    • Discussed by Dresden and Ortega in Death Masks:
      I thought you guys drank blood," I said.
      "It's all we really need," Ortega said.
      "Then why do you have anything else?"
      Ortega held up the bottle. "Life is more than mere survival. All you need is the water, after all. Why drink beer?"
    Later that conversation...
    "The offer to make me into a blood-drinking monster in eternal slavery to you? Why would I want to do that?"
    "It is the only way to keep your life," Ortega said.
    I felt the anger coalescing into rage. My upper lip curled away from my teeth, baring them in a snarl. "I thought life is more than mere survival."
    Ortega's expression changed. It was only for a second, but in that moment I saw furious rage, arrogant pride, and violent bloodlust on his face. He regained his calm quickly, but traces of the hidden emotions thickened his accent.
    "So be it. I will kill you, wizard."
    • Hinted at in Harry Potter by the prophesy "neither can live while the other survives". The living vs. surviving theme is more developed in fanfic.

    I'm not sure we have an actual trope here, though. There's an idea, but that isn't quite the same thing.
  • February 26, 2014
    frosty
    ^ It can be a source of conflict when character is going to die or is just barely hanging on. The right-to-die controversy is based entirely on this, and any character that's offered a chance of immortality will usually have to grapple with this as a consequence. If that's not a trope, then what is?
  • February 26, 2014
    TheWanderer
    • An episode of Gargoyles examined this trope.
      Coldstone: You said that destroying my brother is the only way to survive. Is that all there is for us, mere survival?
      Demona: Isn't that enough?
      Goliath: No. Gargoyles protect. It is our nature. Our purpose. To lose that is to be corrupt. Empty. Lifeless.
  • February 27, 2014
    Lakija
    Update please? Or else tag Rolling Updates.
  • February 28, 2014
    robinjohnson
    • There's a civilisation-wide example of this in an episode of Star Trek The Original Series. Kirk destroys a computer that was keeping a planet's people in a stagnant, mollycoddled existence, and argues that this isn't a Prime Directive violation because the people didn't really have their own culture at all.
  • February 28, 2014
    Arivne
  • February 28, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Thanks. It's The Apple I was thinking of, although The Return Of The Archons looks like pretty much the same episode.
  • March 4, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    ^ They also mention it in "I, Mudd."
  • March 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Is this Up For Grabs yet?
  • March 4, 2014
    troacctid
    • In Game Of Thrones, a furious Daenerys confronts Mirri Maz Duur with this trope when her healing methods keep Khal Drogo alive, but in a permanent vegetative state. Mirri throws it right back:
      Daenerys: I spoke for you. I saved you!
      Mirri Maz Duur: Saved me? Three of those riders had already raped me before you saved me, girl. I saw my god's house burn, there where I had healed men and women beyond counting. In the streets I saw piles of heads... the head of the baker who makes my bread, the head of a young boy that I had cured of fever just three moons past. So... tell me again exactly what it was that you saved?
      Daenerys: Your life.
      Mirri Maz Duur: Why don't you take a look at your Khal? Then you will see what life is worth, when all the rest is gone.
  • April 4, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Is the sponsor still there?
  • April 4, 2014
    DAN004
    I wanna grab this badly D:
  • April 4, 2014
    MercenX
    Suggesting a quote for the top of the description:
    According to our new arrival
    Life is more than mere survival
    We just may live the good life yet.
    —Theme song to Mr Belvedere
  • April 5, 2014
    Chabal2
    Monty Python's Lion Tamer sketch features a 45-year old chartered accountant who wants to do "something exciting, something that will let me live!". However, he appears to have confused lions and anteaters, and so backs down when he learns exactly what lion taming entails.
  • April 5, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Barney Miller: In the episode "The Slave" the squad learns that a Burmese diplomat has a slave. They try to convince the slave that he shouldn't be one:
    Wojo: What do you get outta bein' bossed around all the time?
    William: I eat.
    Wojo: So?
    William: I know many who don't.
    Harris: Man, there is more to life than just having something to eat.
  • April 6, 2014
    MetaFour
    • Braveheart. When asked why he risks death to fight for Scottish independence, William Wallace answers "Every man dies. Not every man really lives."
  • April 7, 2014
    eowynjedi
    I feel like Granny Weatherwax talks about this kind of thing in Discworld (maybe Carpe Jugulum?) but my memory is failing on a specific example.
  • April 7, 2014
    Ominae
    Not sure if this is fine:

    Video Games

    • In Persona 4, exploring Yosuke's social link after the battle with his Shadow self reveals that he liked Saki despite her hatred for him and his family for Junes' presence in Yasoinaba, which was ruining local businesses. At first, he was sad and upset that his family had to move from the city to the countryside since his father was appointed as the head manager of Junes. As time passes in the story (and through more interactions with Yosuke on his social link), Yosuke has learned to appreciate the city and wants to help solve the mystery not only to help stop the killer before more victims are found and protect the inhabitants, but to live and be a better person, despite Saki's hate for him.
  • April 8, 2014
    Arivne
    Re-formatted Examples section.
  • April 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Is this Up For Grabs yet?
  • April 8, 2014
    Chabal2
    ^^^^ Lords And Ladies, I think.

    A quote attributed to Jack London illustrate this (only the firsst line is confirmed as being his):
    I would rather be ashes than dust!
    I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
    I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
    The function of man is to live, not to exist.
    I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
    I shall use my time.
    Others include:
    "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
    "I'd rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet."
  • April 8, 2014
    MetaFour
    Literature:
    • In the Philip K Dick short story "The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out of Its Tree", Joe Contemptible is driven to despair by his unfulfilling life:
      "I'm not married. I've got no wife. Nothing. Just my damn job at the record store. All those damn German songs and those bubblegum rock lyrics; they go through my head night and day, constantly, mixtures of Goethe and Heine and Neil Diamond. ... So why should I live on? Call that living? It's existence, not living."
  • April 8, 2014
    TheWanderer
    • An episode of the Highlander series discussed this. An immortal starts claiming to be Methos, the oldest living immortal, and preaching that all immortals should give up violence and The Game. When the real Methos goes to talk to the pretender, (without revealing who he is) he notes that the pretender is making a huge target out of himself, as a lot of immortals will want to claim the power of a 5,000 year old man. This exchange follows:
      Fake Methos: Can anyone live for 5,000 years and say they did nothing? Risked nothing? Merely stayed alive with nothing else to show for it? It'd be pointless.
      Real Methos: Some people would say that experience was enough. That it was worth saving.
  • April 9, 2014
    Diask
  • April 9, 2014
    Ominae
    Anime and Manga

    • Near the end of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke Urameshi gets conflicted when he finds out that he has demon blood within him, making him wonder if it's worth living and to just live being a demon. Through the support of his friends and mentors, especially with his childhood friend Keiko, Yusuke decided that it's worth living since he had been able to protect the world from demonic invasions and help prevent the netherworld from having a civil war due to the loss of Raizen. Yusuke, in the end, decided to use his heritage to help skeptical demons and humans understand one another.
  • May 26, 2014
    dinobotTM2
    I believe this is the exact subject of Garth Brooks' Standing Outside the Fire.
  • May 26, 2014
    DAN004
    Gonna grab this, if nobody objects
  • May 27, 2014
    partner555
    None from me. Judging by comments alone, the sponsor hasn't appeared since putting this up.
  • May 30, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump for now
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Pmub
  • June 4, 2014
    Ominae
    Trying to see if my addition is fine.
  • June 4, 2014
    Dawnwing
    Literature:

    • In the Warrior Cats Super Edition Firestar's Quest, Leaf uses this as a reason as to why they should join the new SkyClan.
      "Yes, I'll join," Leaf assured him. "If the Clan really works how you say it will, then cats will have a purpose. We'll be more than just rogues, just living to stay alive."
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ "uses this"? How?
  • June 6, 2014
    Dawnwing
    She uses it by saying it. She feels that if they're part of this new Clan, protecting and caring for one another, then they'll have a purpose, as opposed to just living to stay alive - in that quote, she says that, and cites having a purpose as to why she wants to join and thinks other cats should too.
  • June 16, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump?
  • June 16, 2014
    Omeganian
    The second book of The Dark Elf Trilogy starts with Drizzt realizing that after ten years of surviving alone in the Underdark, he is becoming too much of an instinct-driven animal.
  • June 21, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump for moar examples
  • June 21, 2014
    Diask
    Would this trope count as opposite of Ambition Is Evil?
  • June 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ explain.
  • June 22, 2014
    Diask
    ^ Ambition Is Evil is when trying to improve your lot in life is a bad thing, probably leaving you Lonely At The Top. This trope is when having no ambition beyond not dying early is a bad thing.
  • June 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ nice.
  • June 22, 2014
    DAN004
    I believe the first 5 paragraph can be shortened... help plz?
  • June 26, 2014
    jatay3
    CS Lewis made the same point in the essay, Learning in Wartime.
  • June 26, 2014
    jatay3
    Isn't this kind of the basis for The Monuments Men?
  • June 26, 2014
    Tallens
    • Fallout3: This is one of the things President Eden states as he announces Project Purity.
  • June 26, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ maybe a few excerpt of his speech can be added for the example.
  • June 26, 2014
    ChosenCharacter
    Lion King 1/2's entire early plot is Timone leaving the meerkats because "All we do is dig so we can hide and hide so we can dig!"
  • June 26, 2014
    macjohnson
    Attack on Titan has this trope in the form of Eren and Armin, who believe that living safe within the walls is merely surviving, and that truly living can only be possible when mankind is free.
  • June 26, 2014
    Tallens
    After describing how nearly all water is contaminated and people have to use makeshift purifiers to clean tiny amounts of water at a time...
    President Eden: But that's not really living, is it? You're simply existing, America, postponing death for a day or two. Well, I'm gonna tell you, right here, right now, those days are at an end!
  • June 29, 2014
    DAN004
    One last bump for moar examples
  • July 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Launching?
  • July 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Indices? I only know of Stock Aesops.
  • July 4, 2014
    eowynjedi
    Live Action:

    • In the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "The Hunted," the leader of a group of rebelling Super Soldiers who have been unceremoniously exiled to keep the rest of society neat and clean says that simply surviving in exile isn't enough; they want their old lives back.

    Eta: as for indices, Philosophy Tropes, Human Rights Issues, maybe Psychology Tropes?
  • July 5, 2014
    Tallens
  • July 5, 2014
    DAN004
    Uh, are we in consensus for the title? Doesn't the current one sounds like a phrase?
  • July 8, 2014
    eowynjedi
    The title is fine. It sounds like a bald description of a theme—like if I was to sum up Wall-E, I could say "Wall-E's theme is that living is more than surviving."

    I mean, it could also be something that comes out of a character's mouth, but every conceivable assemblage of words could be a piece of dialogue.
  • July 8, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I see.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=soeksxf12akdb777mza8sbg3&trope=LivingIsMoreThanSurviving