Life as a battery


Understanding our human life, meaning, and burnout through batteries.



“Everything is a battery if you break it down to its simplest form.”
said Reddit user; u/thomasstearns42

“Trees are basically sun batteries.”
added Reddit user u/LouBerryManCakes

These internet comments launched quite the rabbit hole of a thought experiment: 

What if we think of various forms of life as living batteries?


Let’s explore and start our journey with the physicist Richard Feynman.

“When you burn a tree branch you are undoing what made the tree – releasing heat and light it stored. That heat and light from the sun is what separated the carbon from the oxygen in the first place when the tree was growing.

In other words, when you burn a tree, you are releasing the light and heat that came from the sun and was stored in the tree, back into the world.”

Curious! So at least we can view plant life as a form of a battery, 

What about us humans?

When we eat, we usually measure the content of our food with calories.

In other words, you are eating stored units of heat.

What is heat? Let’s hear from Feynman:

“all that [heat] is, is the speed of atoms jiggling – irregular motion

cept atoms have perfect elasticity, they never lose any energy”

More heat, more energy. So our food is stored, atomic jiggling. Food is fuel.

Reddit user thomasstearns42 summarises:
“Existing is storing and using energy.”

So one way to understand life is a battery. That’s cool.

Is there anywhere we can take this thought experiment?

Now for a battery, energy is chemical energy contained within the bonds of atoms and molecules stored within.

What is energy from the perspective of life – a living being?


Energy of life

At the risk of sounding new agegic, the energy I am referring to is a sum of various ‘energies’ within life. For humans, it is not only our nutrition, but it is also emotional, and perhaps spiritual.

It’s not just one thing – but all things that enable us to go about our existence, live through our life, experience our experiences, do our daily tasks, express one’s self, self-transcend, and still be left yearning for more.

So energy is the sum of everything that powers us. This means at least the following:


  1. Food is fuel. The most fundamental form of energy. Easy to understand in terms of biology. Something we eat, digest, and store in various forms across our bodies.


  1. Oxygen is also required. While it is not directly energy, it is a vital component of the process of storing energy.


  1. Sleep is another requirement. During sleep our body is repairing itself – so in a sense, it is a maintenance process of the battery. Digestion is active during sleep, though less pronounced compared to during wakefulness.


  1. Water is yet another essential component of the energy storing and discharging process – also known as existing.

Okay, if these are our energetic musts – what about other things that can either help or hinder the processes of storing and discharging energy?


  1. stress – is our environment’s demand for attention. might motivate us to take action, or shut us down.


  1. emotions – at times called energy in motion – these sensations can act as guides on when (not) to discharge our energy.

    Grief, disgust, shame, or fear might stop us from taking action and tie us down. Simultaneously excitement or anger might launch us into action.

    While I’m not sure if emotions are energy as such, they can at least be seen as a type of energy management system of the body-mind. They can motivate us to move about, conserve our energy, prepare us for action, or ask for respite.

    Emotion is one way of our internal battery regulating itself – we are not blindly discharging our batteries wherever, whenever. Emotions help us guide our energy. 


  1. intellect – I see the brain’s primary purpose in moving the body. Specifically to coordinate movement.

    Sight, sound, and other sensory information are brought together; muscles are controlled to produce coordinated movements of the body in response to perception, to achieve the goals of the organism (e.g., eating, not getting eaten).

    This not only happens through emotions, but through our logic, creativity, knowledge, memory, intuition, learning, language, ethics, values, and sociality – we categorize the world into concepts we can understand.

    This world of ideas is among many things, a map of things (not) worth moving toward.

    Do I exercise today or not, and with what intensity?
    Do I prepare myself a meal or order in?
    Do I build a business or meditate?
    Do I dare approach someone intriguing at a bar?
    Should I have kids?
    How willing am I to pursue honesty in my relationships?
    How willing am I to pursue truth as a philosophical concept in my life?

    To put it into unfairly simplistic terms: what is worth my energy? While the main reason for having a brain is to decide when and where to move, we just happened to come up with many different, even creative motivations for movement (art, philosophy…) Our spirit has a similar function.


What is this “energy” really? it wouldn’t be fair to call it just calories, nor Chi or Kundalini. But it is whatever keeps us moving.

The correct application of energy can only be achieved once having aligned our biological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – energetic – systems.

The aforementioned things that we can more or less logically attune to be relevant for our internal process of storing and discharging energy.

Can we take this thought experiment any further?

Can we also find any insights from the world of battery technology and research?


Battery characteristics

According to University of Cambridge, the following battery characteristics must be taken into consideration when selecting a battery:

  1. Type
  2. Voltage
  3. Discharge curve
  4. Capacity
  5. Energy density
  6. Specific energy density
  7. Power density
  8. Temperature dependence
  9. Service life
  10. Physical requirements
  11. Charge/discharge cycle
  12. Cycle life
  13. Cost
  14. Ability to deep discharge
  15. Application requirements

Let’s highlight a couple and see what we can find out.

Discharge Curve

The discharge curve is a plot of voltage against percentage of capacity discharged. A flat discharge curve is desirable as this means that the voltage remains constant as the battery is used up.

In other words, how evenly are you able to release your stored energy?

During a given day, upon waking up in the morning, rested and energized – does all that energy come out from us evenly? Or are there times when it comes out more easily than at other?

Going beyond being a so-called morning or night person dichotomy, I feel I have two peaks in my energy discharge curve – first thing in the morning and another one in the early evenings.

  1. the body wakes me up with a jolt of cortisol soon after waking up, allowing me to take the day on
  2. early evenings I feel a sort of second wind, after having (hopefully) rested the afternoon.

On the other hand, I also experience consequent dips during the afternoon and late night. 

  1. whether it is the after-lunch coma or need for rest after working through the morning and day, afternoons ask me to take a moment and gather my strength – or at least don’t allow my energy to discharge at a similar pace as in the morning
  2. the second logical dip comes around night time, asking me to take the night off to recharge

But our energy stores are more than just a 24h battery. When we burnout, we’ve burned through more than just last night’s sleep and the last couple of meals. A burned-out system is not able to discharge its energy, regardless of their nutrition. We’ve burned out some fundamental reserves. And now our emotions, perhaps intellect as well, are coming in to protect whatever little is left.

And how do we empty these fundamental energy storages? Think about your tendencies.

Are you brimming with energy when fully charged, but easily give too much?

Or do you refuse to get excited in the first place – ensuring your energy output is stable throughout the days, weeks, months?

How do your emotions and intellect enable or disable the discharge of your battery? 



The theoretical capacity of a battery is the quantity of electricity involved in the electro-chemical reaction. 

How much energy can we store at once? Our muscles can store about a day’s worth of energy in the form of glycogen, depending on the individual and their muscle mass. This is one reason why it is easier to stay slim with more muscle mass: more energy can be stored as glycogen in our muscles, before excess energy is converted into adipose tissue. Meaning we can eat larger meals without gaining fat.

Which is another storage of energy within our bodies. A single kilogram of this tissue contains about 7,700 kcal of energy.

Assuming an individual has 10 kgs of excess adipose tissue, that might fuel them up for a month’s worth of existence – assuming low activity level and fasting.

Going beyond heat energy, we can also think about those fundamental energy storages and discharging them?
What is our capability to become affected by our environment?

Are we prone to stress? Easily excitable?

Or stoic and indifferent?

Temperature dependence

The rate of the reaction in the cell will be temperature dependant according to theories of kinetics. The internal resistance also varies with temperature; low temperatures give higher internal resistance. At very low temperatures the electrolyte may freeze giving a lower voltage as ion movement is impeded. At very high temperatures the chemicals may decompose, or there may be enough energy available to activate unwanted, reversible reactions, reducing the capacity. The rate of decrease of voltage with increasing discharge will also be higher at lower temperatures, as will the capacity.

Our bodies prefer to operate in a comfy 37 degree Celcius. If our bodies for some reason become colder, we increase our energy expenditure, in order to raise our temperature. And if hotter – decrease it. 

Temperature is an example of an environmental factor.

What about environmental factors affecting us?

Stress, distractions, world events. Our energetic process is not inside a vacuum. Our surroundings affect how we store and discharge energy.


Service life

The battery cycle life for a rechargeable battery is defined as the number of charge/recharge cycles a secondary battery can perform before its capacity falls to 80% of what it originally was. This is typically between 500 and 1200 cycles.

Here is where things get interesting! Dare any of take a gander at what the service life of life might be?

Most animals live for about a billion heartbeats. Humans – ever the statistical outliers – live for about three billion. 

120 years is estimated to be a sort of ‘soft cap’ on human longevity, due to mostly genetic factors relating to aging. I wonder if our favorite longevity expert Bryan Johnson can make it that far, and perhaps beyond?


Batteries can also be subjected to premature death by the following circumstances:

Drawing more current than it was designed to produce
-> i.e. excess stress, overwhelming demands

> i.e. burnout, emptying fundamental storages

> e.g. imagine of a person being excited to the point of cardiac arrest!

Short circuiting
-> i.e. health issues or emotional dysregulation might be examples of life shorting its circuits

Subjecting to extreme temperatures, physical shock or vibrations
-> anything that might jeopardize the structural integrity of our body, our battery – our life’s vessel too cold and our cells freeze – breaking them. too hot and our proteins become denatured, our DNA breaks down, and eventually, our cells commit seppuku apoptosis. 


Charge/Discharge cycle

Perhaps the sleep/wake -cycle of humans. During wakefulness and activity we discharge our gathered energy toward survival but also gather further energy. During sleep and rest we charge our batteries back up.

There are times where these overlap – think of a marathonist eating while on the run.

There are many aspects of the [charge/discharge] cycle that need consideration, such as:

Voltage necessary to charge

-> how nutritious our food needs to be compared to our digestive system? you won’t be running a marathon carb-loading on cucumber. but also what quality (voltage) is our sleep, the air we breathe, the water we drink?

Time necessary to charge

-> how long does it take for our digestive system – the slimy earthworm-esque creature living inside our skeleton – to work it’s magic on the calories we consume? how long to burn through those pesky pockets of visceral adipose tissue? how long to sleep, to bask in sunlight – in order to charge ourselves back up?

 Potential safety hazards during charge/discharge

-> in general we need to reach safety, before we can charge. Rest and digest, as they say.

Ability to deep discharge

There is a logarithmic relationship between the depth of discharge and the life of a battery, thus the life of a battery can be significantly increased if it is not fully discharged; for example, a mobile phone battery will last 5-6 times longer if it is only discharged 80% before recharging.

Let’s assume this deep discharge is the battery equivalent of a burnout.

This would mean we will have a higher quality and quantity of life (energy) if we never burnout (deep discharge). Sad news indeed for those who have.

Application requirements

The battery must be sufficient for the intended application. This means that it must be able to produce the right current with the right voltage. It must have sufficient capacity, energy and power. It should also not exceed the requirements of the application by too much, since this is likely to result in unnecessary cost; it must give sufficient performance for the lowest possible price.

I find this description oddly soothing while playing along with the analogy I have presented. An effect that the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy probably did not intend to have.

One law of nature appears to be the survival of the fittest. Meaning what fits best to its own environment, survives the the best, the longest. 

We should find our environments (i.e. intended application) to be something that suits our capabilities (i.e. current, voltage, capacity, energy, and power). We often think hard about how our life suits our work. But we might be better off thinking about what kind of work suits our lives. And it’s not the only critical environment we live in. We should carefully assess how we have fun and how we relax. 

Simultaneously, I am reminded of the concept of minimum effective dose when applying our energy. In training, it is the smallest amount of input that produces a response e.g. in strength training and muscle building. In pharmacology it is the smallest amount of medicine that produces a biological response. 

In energetic terms, in is the smallest amount of effort that produces the right result. How often are you optimizing for this balance? Are there times where you don’t put in enough effort, so you never see the results you are hoping from in lifestyle changes? Or perhaps, are you putting in too much effort at work – trying to succeed in a hopeless endeavor? 


Technological advancement and evolution

Is life more than a battery?

There is a beautiful comfort in remembering we are more than static batteries. We are self-maintaining, self-repairing, living complex systems. 

The beauty of remembering life as such is that even in the event of a “deep discharge” event, I’m inclined to believe that nothing has been broken. While fundamental reserves have been burned out, probably no fundamental capacity has been lost.

As opposed to the batteries that power our devices, WE can repair our capability to store and output energy.

We can build our muscles to store more glycogen through exercise.

We can support the digestive system to store energy more efficiently through diet e.g. probiotics and enzymes.

We can improve the quality of our sleep with lifestyle choices.

Even simple and affordable batteries today have safeguards that protect against deep discharge, overcharge, and overload. Perhaps our minds can build safeguards as well. Both technology and life play by the rules evolution.

Equally as importantly,

we can manage our emotional landscape in a direction that allows us to take more action.

We can find out that fear or other difficult emotions do not necessarily dictate our actions.

We realize we can cultivate positive emotions and leverage them to discharge our energy.


we can begin to understand ourselves and the world in a way that motivates us.

We can acknowledge thoughts of indifference, and strive to make a difference despite them.

We can see the causal nature of reality, and understand that everything truly happens for a reason – regardless of how difficult it might be to see it. 

We understand that we are very important – if only for a very short time.

We come across the realization we can choose action – regardless of turmoil, anxiety, pain, or suffering.

We can decide to see the good, to see the light, to see the meaning, to see the reason why – as opposed to why not.

We start to see others seeing the same good, the same light, the same meaning, the same reasons why.

We start one thing, realize we’re not so good at it, but strive to get it done regardless.

We start another, realize we’re getting better at it.

We start a third, and find out we enjoy the process.

We realize this is what we were supposed to do all this time.


What is it we are here to do?

We’re not here to live our lives debilitated by fear, regret, and shame.

My grandmother told me never to regret something you can still fix.

In other words, don’t let your emotions keep you from taking productive action.

We’re here to experience everything the human experience has to offer – without ever letting it get us down.

Fall down 7 times; get up 8.

We’re not here only to consume, or judge.

We are here to create, and express.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
― Martha Graham


We’re not here to listen to answers other people have found out.

We have to do our own work, build our own wisdom, and find our own answers.


The very heart of spirituality lies not in having the right answers, but in keeping alive the most genuine questions that life presents to us moment to moment.
― Stephen Batchelor


Who am I? Why are we here? Why is there something instead of nothing? What is reality for? What does it all mean? 

And don’t make this journey just about yourself.


An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
― Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
― George Bernard Shaw

We are all just walking each other home.
 ― Ram Dass


And finally I ask you to remember, whatever it is that you choose to impart your energy upon – it doesn’t have to remain the same over time. Our emotions change from moment to moment. We develop our intellect. We become in touch with our spirit. Many things might affect our energetic priorities.

This ‘balance’ we are all seeking was never about keeping two sides of a scale equally level in a static arrangement. To divide our resources evenly between whatever topics we think our lives should consist of; work, relationships, happiness…

Balance is a dynamic process of constant, frequent adjustments. That of a runner’s body and its muscles working in unison to stay in motion.

If entropy is the fundamental nature of reality, perhaps evolution is the fundamental nature of life.

Only what changes can remain.
― Weu Wulong



Your energy was never wasted as energy can never be destroyed, only transferred, and transmuted.

Where will you direct your energy now?


Thanks for reading.

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