The human soul – does God speak to us in the “silence within us”? Is this place responsible for a growing humanity or enhancing a person’s spirituality?
Inhaling sorrowfully, one realizes disparate groups assess the soul as culturally counterintuitive – distant from the spiritual realm. For some, the Soul’s a small KIA vehicle with snappy slogan, “build your own Soul.” Soul food relates to African American Southern cuisine. Soul music, of the 1950’s, combines elements of African American gospel with rhythm and blues – remember Jackie Gleason’s character, Poor Soul, or TV’s Soul Train?….we can go on.
Martha Curry, friend, fellow Morning Prayer parishioner, led me to Parker J. Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach, Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. The text generates introduction toward heightened sensitivity to a human center – an unsettling, powerful soul. Palmer wrote: “The soul is like a wild animal…the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places.”
While elementary Sunday school instruction persuades all humans possess a soul, I didn’t associate its presence with growing spiritual maturity. This inner “something” began to shape en parte by confronting life’s experiences – often vigorously inflicted.
Honorable William C. Mims, Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, in a recent Faith & Values column, wrote about “friend”, Henri Nouwen, of Yale Divinity School. Nouwen, a comfortably established professor, abandoned his accomplished perch “to provide menial service to profoundly disabled adults.” Writing his column, Mims was deeply touched – as were his readers. An example of soul at work?
Recently, 10th District Congressman, Frank Wolf, wrote, Prisoner of Conscience, reflecting Wolf’s religious commitment to human rights. Reviewers observed that Congressman Wolf combined committed public service with the applications of “feed my sheep” and deeper “love thy neighbor.” His thesis: world revolutionary changes could be brought by an authentic pursuit of justice – urged on by being “a prisoner of one’s conscience”. Soul induced?
Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul, originally published in 1992, speculated what a major narrowing of our soul’s capacity might be. He observed an unwelcomed challenge from modern behavioral psychology. That discipline strongly dismisses the soul’s existence….believing instead a person’s action is the ultimate key to accurate understanding. This personal human action might be a calibration into “cure” for atypical behavior.
Moore holds that dismissal of soul leads professional therapy astray. Instead, by substantively peering inward (soul), one can discover acceptance – a coping with life’s disenchantment. Summoning his right brain sensitivities, the author instructs our soul is partly on earth, partly in eternity. He writes: “Disappointments in love, even betrayals and loss, serve the soul at the very moment when life wallows in tragedy. The soul is partly in time, partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity – when we feel despair over the part that is in life.”
Remember, the soul detects how to survive in hard places – it is developed, strengthened – as we develop and strengthen. It withers into atrophy on inaction. For me, soul is a spiritual repository of those provocative values lessons – even when our frenzied behavior needs re-fueling; it becomes the go-to source.
Overtly, soul (psuche) can be authenticated with boldness, courage – bringing gentle behavior while lunging toward a “good”. Its enhancement heightens a growing sanctity for spiritual thought. Too frequently, our soul spends valuable time trying to catch up to us. “I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive – even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul”, concluded Dr. Parker Palmer. He wrote this as a victim of his depression, or “deadly darkness.”
Martha Curry, dear friend, presided over Morning Prayer service recently, leading in psalm, “for God alone my soul in silence waits.” She really put me on to something here….for all of us.
Raymond B. Wallace, Jr. is a former business executive, Advance Placement classroom teacher, Trustee for Virginia Retirement System. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.