How Much Does Life Weigh?

Quite some time ago I received a beautiful Papyrus card. This delicate work of art contained the following legend:

Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

I love it when we’re gifted with a hummingbird sighting. The weight of these tiny creatures depends on the species:

  • The smallest hummingbird is the bee hummingbird which weighs less than 2 grams.
  • The largest hummingbird is known as the giant hummingbird and it weighs between 21 and 23 grams.

I remember a heated debate in school we had about the 21 Grams Theory and then many years later, the opening lines of the 2003 movie “21 Grams” with Sean Penn:

They say we all lose 21 grams at the exact moment of our death…everyone. Twenty-one grams—the weight of a stack of 5 nickels, the weight of a chocolate bar, the weight of a hummingbird.”

The next time I see a hummingbird it may well remind me of a soul in flight…

A flash of harmless lightning
A mist of rainbow dyes
The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies
John Banister Tabb



55 thoughts on “How Much Does Life Weigh?

    • Jeff – Every time I see a hummingbird my mind immediately goes to the 21 gram theory. It’s definitely something that continues to simmer on the back burner of my thoughts.

  1. “A soul in flight…” What a lovely thought! And “a flash of harmless lightning” is such a poetic way of describing the quick sighting of a hummingbird – sometimes it takes a moment or two to realize what it was I just saw! Fantastic photo – must have been a thrill for you to capture it!

    • Barbara – It’s so rare that we see hummingbirds, that when we saw them in the bottle brush on Coronado Island I ever-so-carefully lifted my camera and got a shot. That sighting immediately sent my mind down the 21 gram train-of-thought.

    • Terrill – I assure you that when the topic was brought up in school, it triggered a very heated debate. Not only about the weight of a soul, but is there, isn’t there, a soul at all? Interesting that such a little thing (21 grams) could cause such a huge ruckus! Regardless, I still think of a soul in flight every time I see a hummingbird 🙂

  2. Love the idea here, Laurie. Size and weight aren’t good indicators of anything, are they? Superficial … at best. The hummingbirds are so delightful … we love them! Thanks for an inspiring message. With heart, Daisy

  3. Laurie, this is so delightful…I love the picture and your musings. I’d never thought of it that way, but I will always think of the 21 grams when I see a hummingbird now. We have a hummingbird feeder in Montana and absolutely love to watch them.

    • Helen – I’m glad you enjoyed this post, thank you for letting me know. We tried a hummingbird feeder, but our biggest dog, Willa (an Irish Wolfhound) was able to reach it by standing on her hind legs, and then when we put it waaaaaay up in our apple tree and squirrels were tickled pink!

    • Genevieve – Welcome to Speaking from the Heart. I resonate with your observation that hummingbirds are a reminder of how fleeting life is and to shake hands with joy — regardless. I folowed the link you provided — WOW! — that’s utterly fantastic. While there, I followed you on Twitter. I hope you’ll visit again.

  4. Thank you for your wonderful post. It reminds of my old dog Heather and how she felt in my arms when I carried her to the vet. She was as light as a feather. She’d been sick. After she passed away and I carried her home, she seemed to weigh much more. There is something about life energy that lifts regardless of actual weight, hence the term “dead weight.”

  5. Hummingbirds! Such magical creatures. We have a few around here in Maryland. Like you, Laurie, I followed the link above and WOW – that was so amazing. Stuff like that just opens my heart up big and wide and makes me feel good. Everyone needs these “feel good” moments. Thanks to you and Genevieve for sharing.

    • Barbara – I’m so glad you followed that link, too. You’re right, that was a heart-opening feel good!

      [By the way, I talked with Sandi via email this morning. She’s didn’t pull a Dorothy and leave “Kansas,” but they did get the dirt shaken out of their shoe tread]…

  6. Hi Laurie,

    The 21g experiment has so many possibilities for error, that it would need to be repeated with modern equipment before I would give it any credence at all. gives another report on the same experiment.

    To me it seems highly unlikely.
    I strongly suspect other agents, other explanations.

    It is so difficult to determine time of death.
    Death happens at many different levels, and many different times.
    Consciousness can stop, and eventually the body will get to a point of decomposition that consciousness cannot be restarted with the tools available at the time.

    The idea that there is a “soul” and that it has weight does not have any strong evidence to support it that I am aware of. I am aware of so much evidence to the contrary.

    • Ted – I think it would be really cool for the experiment to be done again with today’s modern equipment and technology. the points you bring up are some of the very ones that were brought up in the discussion (heated debate) that I remember taking place in school. There’s definitely more than one camp of thinking on this. As with anything, if it can’t stand up to questions and scrutiny — close examination — then it’s not worth much 🙂

  7. Ummm, how very beautiful Laurie. What a wonderful pause from the hustle and bustle of the day noise and the mind chatter in the head. The ears just don’t hear in the same way the heart listens, do they! Thank you.

  8. Very interesting, I am looking forward to seeing the movie referenced now that I have read this post. For me, I believe that ALL living things have a soul although I can not say how much that energy force might weigh. For the living souls that complain about the weight of the world, or having a heavy heart, it is clear that we FEEL the weight of life so it is not hard to imagine that small weight (21 grams) leaving (lifting) when our life is over, even if it is something we put on ourselves.

    • Lisa – Oh, you’ve said it so well — about the feel of the weight of life that some people talk about. And you know when we’re practicing Reiki we can feel the energy, but it doesn’t seem to have weight to it — not in a heavy, burdensome way. Just like one doesn’t think about air/wind having weight to it — but it does (approx 14.8 pounds per square in at sea level) as so recently evidenced by the tornado damage in the southeast. We’re just used to it so it doesn’t feel cumbersome.

  9. Laurie, I am familiar with the theory of 21 grams. I have found no reason to disbelieve it. Yeah, Horatio the ARE stranger things…..
    Have you ever held a humming bird in your bare hand? One day a humming bird crashed into my big, picture window. He had been challenging his reflection for some time and probably was going in for the last licks. He knocked his self stone cold and lay on my front porch as if dead. I went out to inspect his little body and as I picked him up a vibration, like an electrical current began humming in my hand. I was so astonished I almost dropped him, but tightened my grip very slightly to discover what this “buzz” might be. It was his tiny heart, beating faster than I imagine anyone could count, picking up strength and speed. It was like holding a painless live wire. Within a couple of minutes he had revived, shook his head and “ZIP!” he was off and gone! I’ve never forgotten that moment, it was a once in a lifetime event for me. Oh, he weighed about as much as a peanut in it shell.

    • Sandi – I’ve never had the gift of holding a hummingbird in my hand. Wow! That must have been an amazing experience! I can’t even begin to imagine holding that tiny bit of iridescence in my bare hands.

  10. I so enjoy the hummingbird family who lived across the street; neighbor cut down the tree about 2 weeks ago.

    Relief I was buzzed by one near my Christmas Cheer Rhody just nicely in bloom…

    soul flight…maybe so

    stunning picture and words today Thank you

  11. What a delightful post Laurie.

    I must tell you that your phrase ‘Soul in flight’ struck a cord the moment I read it. I felt an instant warm and loving vibration through my entire body. I stopped reading and closed my eyes, to be totally in the moment with it.

    Thank you 🙂

    In Health and Harmony


  12. If we dont carry regrets and grudges to the end of our lives,it will indeed be a beautiful flight -light and lovely humming all the way.

  13. Congratulations on the beautiful picture of the hummingbird! Very interesting theory about the weight of our soul. At first I wondered if that weight might be the weight of our constrictions and worries and emotional knots. But not everyone’s would be the same weight, depending on how many we’ve released and untied and let fly free like that precious hummingbird. Nice post…

    • Kathy – I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I can see from an email I received shortly that your and Barry returned home safe and sound. I’ll be heading over to Lake Superior Spirit once we get home. I just finished teaching a Crystal Therapy Base Chakra class and we’re still at HolEssence.

  14. Lovely, profound metaphysical post, Laurie. I well remember every word there in that 21 GRAMS opening. It may well be the aspect of that film I’ve never forgotten. The hummingbird, one of the smallest flying creatures, tellingly has the highest metabolism (when in flight) of any bird, and is the only bird species able to fly backwards. What a stunningly beautiful photo!

    • Sam – As the film aficionado that you are, I can well imagine the opening lines of the film 21 Grams impacting and staying with you. You’re absolutely right in that the hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards. A wonderful reminder for us 2-leggeds to keep moving forward 🙂 I hope you’ve had a great weekend and I look forward to reading about some of it over on your Monday Morning Diary at Wonders in the Dark in the morning.

  15. Leaving the 21gm science true or otherwise – the weight of a humming bird is a happy thought. And I imagine it not vanishing immediately, but hovering in the vicinity when the time comes – gathering thoughts, strength, memories – before moving on.

    • Paul – Welcome to Speaking from the Heart! You’re absolutely right — the weight of a hummingbird is, indeed, a happy thought. More so, I enjoyed reading the rest of your perspective about gathering thoughts, strength, and memories before moving on. Thank you.

  16. Wow I love this Laurie, including the beautiful poem at the end. I especially like your comment “The next time I see a hummingbird it may well remind me of a soul in flight…”

    I never saw humming birds around where I live until ONCE a few years ago and never have seen one around here since.

    I was standing on my front porch after getting home from my last day of a work assignment. Every summer I get these Cidada Killer Wasps which are really big, and the burrow into the ground to bury the cidadas. As I stood on the porch I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I did not move my body, but slightly turned my head thinking it was one of those big wasps…
    NOPE…to my delight it was a humming bird hovering about 2-3 feet from me. I remained still until it finally flew away. It was such a wonderful experience.

  17. Greetings from Australia.
    Where was that lovely photo taken of the hummingbird feasting on the bottlebrush flower?
    Was the Bottlebrush plant imported to your area? It is a native plant of Australia.

    • Mim – I took that photograph at the grounds of Hotel Del on Coronado Island — a hop, skip, and a jump from San Diego in Southern California. I don’t know how they got there originally, but bottle brush plants grow in profusion all over Southern California. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I hope you’ll come back again.

  18. Thanks for your fascinationg post and for continuing the ‘heated debate.’ And thanks for commenting on my blog “Humming Along” about the hummingbird. I loved pretending to be one for a few seconds.

  19. The Artist Whom Holds The Paintbrush of Colours that Creates The Home of The Soul of The Hummingbird has a Buckle on The Wings of Her Heart!

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