What I Learned from Her

Soul is what we say someone has when that person touches us in a previously unimagined way, in a manner that moves us, whatever that means; when another person touches us in a way that transforms us, we think we understand; that sends us to regions of experience otherwise unattainable with persons who are soulless or whose depth of soul is far shallower than the person for whom we have bestowed the title, soulful. Ah! To have soul then is something other than being a person for whom the precondition is having a soul. To have soul in this sense is to have done something with one’s preexisting soul that enlarges it, enhances it, increases its capacity for what soul’s can do? Or is it to use what the soul provides the mind, herein soul and mind must be separate even if we have not decided whether they are a dichotomy or a duality.

A soulful person is a singular one, exceptional, of course, in the art of being soulful. To be mindful would be something else entirely. A man or a woman is apart from any grouping other than that of human, more specifically, that of humane, whenever we speak of him or her as a soulful person. I’m not sure exactly what we mean when we say somone is mindful–we would have to say mindful of what, unless we were talking about his ir her ability to have presence of mind, do we mean focus? We like to use this idea of being soulful as an example of what it means to be humane, no? The soulful person is a model of what it means to be a human-being, a real human-being, we like to say. We do say things like He is a real person. But words cannot express these ideas adequately; words are though all we have to say anything about anything, although saying just anything often does not make it in our minds. We must try to say what has always been said just better than ever before. Even what we know we cannot ever say can only be said in words, by words, so it is our obligation to make these words a form never before formed.

Words are in themselves only words, only the symbols of things other than words. We would certainly have fewer misunderstandings, as Locke had advised us more than three centuries ago, if we did not take them for things in themselves but as only the symbols of the ideas that they are. Each person to his or her own integral mind, and is mind, soul? Each person to his or her own idiolect, his own variety of saying what has always been said or never been said. Language is the glowing example of our humanity, what really separates us from all other creatures. Language is the shining star of all cultures; the greatest product of any culture is its language. In this way, all cultures are advanced. How then does this expose soulfulness as humanness?

All cultures have had the notion of soul. Soul is another of those polygenetic ideas humans have clung to in order to explain much of the inexplicable in human experience. How it has been drawn and articulated by mythology, by theology, metaphysics, ontology, and other branches of knowledge are found in myriads of expression. Soul is non-locatable in a term that succumbs to physiology and biology. Again, in defense, psychologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and biologists have not located the mind, and they are no closer than theologians are at locating the soul, although, if we are looking for a physical place for the soul, why would we ask a theologian?

Faith seems the only reasonable course for understanding soul, in fact for understanding mind. Belief goes a long way in helping to understand what we have a sense is present although absent from all attempts to pin-point its location. Where is the soul is a question similar to where is the mind? The lack of evidence for their location is not proof of their non-existence. That is what I rest all discussions of soul on; I have faith that soul exists.


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