Sunday, 5 April 2009


In my junior years (as opposed to my senior years) we had a lot of ways to “soothe the soul”. We just didn’t realize we needed to answer that call literally. Just as well, since it was too soon in the evolution of a self, and therefore, would not have worked anyway.

I remember dancing to “Give me that ole time Rock and Roll; the kind of music that soothes the soul.” And we did rock and roll, and jump and jive, and jitterbug, at many parties, many times. We were young, in love, and full of energy. Soul music was for slow dancing. Soul food was exotic cuisine. Soul brothers were those gorgeous black men, like Sidney or Harry, who were verboten to young, white girls like me. At that time the term “soul” was an adjective rather than a noun. And why not. We were young, beautiful, energetic, and from some vantage points, immortal.

Only after a certain age, in this case, sixty, the term “soul” became a noun .Only then did I begin to examine more closely the elements that make up my soul and me. Since time immemorial, as the saying goes, “Soul searching” has been a prerogative of the young. And many sensitive, artistic, imaginative individuals have been on this quest throughout their very early years. I feel somehow melancoly for them and their futile search. As the expression goes, “it a takes a village” to raise a child. Similarly, it takes a good portion of a lifetime to create a soul. Before having lived and matured, “soul” is just a word, a meaningless word.

Trying to figure out what career path to take, or how to contribute to the welfare of humanity has nothing to do with one’s soul. Instead it is all about ego. Legitimate soul searching can only begin to happen after the ego has released its grip on ambition, vanity, greed and false altruism.

Today, as I was walking along the beach of my lake house, I felt a sense of awe at the grandeur of nature, the endless landscape of the water that was only halted by the commanding arm of the sky. The winter waves had rolled in more rocks, pebbles and sand.

I reminded of the brilliant novel by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies”. The story begins on a mountaintop, after a plane crash, with a handful of young school boys as the only survivors. The story, which evolves into grim contortions, concludes on a beach. In between, Golding makes boulders, rocks, pebbles, and sand, significant symbols and metaphors. Most importantly, he does so in that descending order, to correspond with the reversal of evolution playing out in the raw, naked edges of the world of these prepubescent boys.

And I thought about my own raw world, the evolution of my children, their ambitions, their focussed lives, just as mine had been. And I looked down at the whole panoply of rocks, pebbles, and sand. And I thought to myself, this experience of mine is so intimate, so personal, so illuminating, and yet, so much larger than me. And I suddenly felt a sense of warmth. Ironic how, when we realize that the world, and specifically, our world, does not revolve around us, there is such a sense of release, of freedom, of that “peace that passes understanding.”


Wisewebwoman said...

A new understanding of 'soul food', why not? I find as I age that life becomes simpler and simpler. And the beauty of the world just takes my breath away. That's why I rail so loud and hard against those that would destroy it.

Darlene said...

There is much to meditate on in your post. I really enjoy your well written musings and find that you make me search for my own meaning of 'soul'.

I agree that at some point we discover that we are not the center of the universe and it is liberating.

20th Century Woman said...

Yes indeed, food for thought here. I have been reading an interesting book, Don't Sleep, there are Snakes, by Dan Everett. He writes about a lot of things closely relevant to the soul.

Laura said...

I've been thinking lately that for me the word soul does not convey the sense of the interior self, perhaps "essence" would be more appropriate. That seems to defy our yearning to hold onto ourself as being above anything and incorporate ourself into the world--to be a pebble amidst the pebbles.

Tessa said...

I have to agree with Laura. For me, as a product of the Irish catholic school system, "soul" has been co-opted by those whose visions are not mine. My essence is fed by what I put into it, not by the so-called arbiters of what is right and wrong. It was all summed up for me when I turned 50 and my screen-saver at work, much to the discomfiture of those around me, read "Fuck it, I'm 50."