It occurred to me in all this permaculture design there is another objective measure of life: life per square foot. Some of the gardener types go a bit nuts about this, and try to put in as many different plants as will grow. It is more than plants too, fungi, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds- from the littlest microbiota to apex predators, if you've got system big enough. I imagine any farmers who want a good nut harvest probably need hawks that kill squirrels. Squirrels are awful, wasteful littering critters who like to grab unripe pecans off the tree and hurl them at my truck. I have never seen a single edible pecan come off that tree.
This is another objective measure of life and having it more abundantly. The God of the living, wants more living, if the old testament is any testament, so there's another, but obviously there are rules surrounding this- which ends up leading to a third objective measure, which I would suggest are obvious health indicators. The children of families in which the parents actually remain together, for instance. Or more direct measures, like muscle mass. Muscle loss is a near universal prelude to death. Sure, sure, people can get run over by a bus, but even there, muscle often affords enough protection to mean the difference between life and death.
The subjective measure is feelings. One is often able to achieve various awesome feelings as a side effect of achieving an objective measure, but the feelings themselves are no indicator. I was watching the first season of The Returned this weekend, which is French zombie series. The French are good with feelings. They'll write all sorts of plots that no American director would touch because the American knows his audience will start asking questions with the word 'how' in them. The French don't care, they are using the plot to drive the feelings; the feelings are what's on display. So obviously, various feelings were elicited in me while watching this show. Probably the most important one was wanting to know what will happen next, but then again, making sure I was sympathetic to various characters was important too.
But at the end of it, I had done nothing more than spend a few hours watching a television show. Feelings. No objective measure achieved. How was Church this Sunday?
The thing about objective measures too, as long as they are ordered properly- one leads to another. Life begets life. As complexity grows, there are more and more niches within which new life can grow. And these niches tend to be niches in stable systems that can last for a very long time.