Sat 21 Jan 2017
We were visiting the new grandson this past week. As that involves airplane travel, it is a good time to take some of the books from the stacks around this old house to read on the long segments and while waiting at gates. One book that I took this time was written by Agatha Christy under her pen name, Mary Westmacott: “Giants’ Bread.” This was a cross between Jane Austen and an Agatha Christy mystery and I would have been hard pressed to know it was Agatha Christy if her name hadn’t been on the cover.
About three times in the story, she has a character quote Jesus and his parable of the Rich Fool found in Luke 12:13-21: Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. The third time it is quoted, the character then says something like, “You had better make sure you have to a soul to give an accounting for!” Like the other character to whom this invective was directed, I was struck by the idea that when we die and give an account of our life, we had better have something to say and show.
What does it mean to have a soul? The Webster dictionary defines soul this way:
1 : the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
2 : the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe
3 : a person’s total self
4a : an active or essential part b : a moving spirit : leader
5a : the moral and emotional nature of human beings b : the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment c : spiritual or moral force : fervor
6 : person<not a soul in sight>
7 : personification <she is the soul of integrity>
8 : a strong positive feeling (as of intense sensitivity and emotional fervor) conveyed especially by black American performers
That is a very multi-dimensional definition for a word that gets tossed around fairly casually, don’t you think? I came away reminded again that if I allow myself to be drained by situations and fantasies, negativity and mindlessness, I may lose an essential animating principle or even my total self and then what would I have to show at the Day of Reckoning? “And the wind shall say: ‘Here were decent Godless people: Their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.” (T.S. Eliot)
So how does one prosper a soul? Here in January, the popular magazines are still telling us how to prosper our bodies through weight loss, diets, and exercise. Few tell us how to create a healthy soul, though, some talk about simplifying life and reducing stress.
Here are a few ideas of mine, based on the definitions above:
- Discover what is your essence and the cause of your life. For me, that would be a child of God created for a unique purpose on earth but everyone has to answer that question for themselves.
- Connect deeply with the spiritual principle of your life. Can you articulate clearly your spiritual life and practices?
- Examine yourself on a regular basis. Nightly, even. Ask yourself hard questions about your behavior, speech, thoughts, goals, attitudes.
- How might you tackle the “rough edges” of your personality in specific and measurable ways? Do you get defensive with criticism or do you try to learn from it?
- How moral are you? Do you believe in absolutes or is everything relative?
- Do you experience strong positive feelings on a regular basis? If not, why not? Where can you connect more with what brings you joy?
If we were to be boiled down, besides some basic minerals and water, the essence of ourselves would be found in our souls. Let us not be caught off-guard as the rich fool was; let us live well and wisely because we never know when we will have to give an Answer for ourselves!