Lets dig a little deeper into the idea of the soul. I introduced the topic by defining soul as essence. When you live soulfully, does it mean you’re always happy, that life is perfect? Definitely not!
There’s a classic scene in the movie “High Fidelity” with John Cusack (from the novel by Nick Hornby). The main character is a dark and restless 30 something guy who runs a record store. A woman comes into his store and asks him, “Have you got any soul?”
That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.
Soul lies next to the blues because that’s where real life takes place. It also sits next to jazz where you improvise and learn as you go. It has many beats; an upbeat ragtime mood….a Broadway musical mood and it gets itself in a funk from time to time. Living with soul is the ultimate fusion of everything that is human. It’s not immortal, but it is a perpetually unfinished symphony and it often sings acapela. And I think I’ve worked that metaphor enough for now. Bottom line- living with soul is about being real.
The crazy pace of life and impossible expectations so often mean that we lose our groove. We forget who we are, lose touch with the essence of who we are. Another famous existentialist, Jesus, said “What good does it do you to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?” In other words, there’s nothing you can add to your life that can replace the feeling of being at peace with yourself. But still we sell our souls in return for things (money, power, fame, securities) that don’t sustain us.
A guy from New Zealand tried selling his soul on the internet. The bidding reached $189 before he closed it. He claimed his soul was in good nick, apart from a rough patch when he first reached the legal drinking age. I think he may have been confusing spirit with soul in that case. Again, we confuse soul with perfection because of the inherited view of the soul as being immortal while the body is mortal. Bring soul and body (and mind) back together. They’re all one. Living with soul isn’t some impossible, unattainable standard of perfection. It’s about being whole, real, authentic, mindful, forgiving……………..
More recently, an American professor sold his soul on e-bay. After a 10 day bidding war, a New York real estate agent purchased it for $1,325. The seller said,
In America, you can metaphorically and literally sell your soul and be rewarded for it.
The idea of selling your soul has a long history. The German author Goethe wrote about it with his legendary character, the alchemist Dr Faust, who was unhappy with his life so he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for ultimate knowledge and power. It’s easy to forget that true knowledge lies in remembering who you are and true power is self mastery.
I really enjoyed the quirky film called Cold Souls. It stars Paul Giamatti, who plays the nervous and awkward role of himself, Paul Giametti. Paul is an actor who gets lost in his own dark thoughts and thinks the problem is his soul. So he decides to remove his soul and put it in soul storage. He’s given the option of storing it on the premises where it is removed or if he wants to save on sales tax he can store it in New Jersey. Paul is devastated to see that, once removed, his soul is only the size of a macadamia nut and much smaller than other souls in storage. He feels hollow without it. The soul is implanted in a Russian woman in order to smuggle it overseas. Drama ensues as he chases his soul around the world. But that’s another story.
The point here is that without his soul Paul loses his groove. Confused and angst ridden as his life always was, at least it was his life. Without his soul, he becomes a terrible actor and loses his sexual appetite. Without his soul, he discovers that the very thing that he thought was weighing him down, his questions and doubts, turned out to be the essence of what made him human.
Living soulfully is the essence of life. It’s not perfect. Sometimes life leaves you cold. That’s when soul reveals your true character. Challenge to soul is like cold water to burning metal; it strengthens, and intensifies but never destroys. Even in the darkest situation, soul gives you a glimmer of hope. It’s the faint memory of the person you know you are beneath the struggle. A soulful perspective turns an event into an experience, a challenge into character, a series of notes into music, a friendship into an intimate connection. You can always trust this perspective. Last words again to poet John O’Donohue,
Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.