I talk a lot about the soul because I have learned that soulfulness is what life is about. As much as spirit and desire can propel you to the top of the mountain, soulfulness will keep you firmly attached to the low valleys and to earth. We need that to keep from spinning out of control with our drives and our ambitions.
It is said that the body is the physical manifestation of the soul. That means if you don’t like your body you really don’t like yourself, as much as you may say you do. The aspects of yourself, your personality, your intelligence, your feelings, and your illnesses, are all soulful qualities too. So how can you bring these qualities into play when it comes to dealing with trouble, illness, and all those pesky emotions that weigh you down and keep your energy low? With balance.
Keates Said it in a Most Profound Way
"But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination’s struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are still the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence."
Feeling existence. That is life. The more we feel the events of our own lives, and the lives of others, the more perspective we gain. But feeling the events of life and gaining perspective takes time and patience. And it is not the easy path; it’s the Road Not Taken (Robert Frost).
Ordinarily we go about our lives primarily focused on the mundane; work, family, and what we have to look forward to. We try to avoid the shadowy elements of life, and do not like heartbreak, suffering, and awkwardness. We try not to dwell on these shadow elements. But it’s the suffering of life that can bring about the deepest dimension of life: faith. Faith results when we reach the chasm – the impossible places in life when we don’t know what to do next. When, like Job in the Bible, we have tried everything we know to try and nothing seems to help.
It Takes Both
It takes the exhilarating and the invigorating, as well as the troublesome and thought-provoking experiences life brings. Part of life’s mystery and soulfulness is in the individual events you and I experience that are different from every other person’s. Still, it helps us when we know other people who have experienced or are experiencing some of the same things, especially when troubles are upsetting and seemingly without an end.
It may take only a few moments, and it may take years to learn to love both aspects of us, light and dark. The light, fun, and rewarding aspect is easy. It’s the dark side of life that we do not wish for. Each experience varies and each individual finds his or her way through the rocky part of life. We may find ourselves alone, without friends or family understanding us. They may even think we are a little nuts! We may find we have been keeping our faith at a distance. And faith is an important element of spirituality. Plenty of people faithfully go to church on Sunday and listen to the sermon, believe in it, and pray. But we aren’t so good at having faith in our own ability to solve the problem. We pray but when the answer comes we don’t have enough faith in ourselves to believe in it. We falter in our predictable, charming, human way.
At First We Don't See the Solution
We don’t see it because we don’t trust it. We don’t trust our own ability to understand and follow it. We don’t see it because we don’t want to. The answer can be right in front of us from the beginning and it may take days, weeks, or even years to allow it a hearing. Because while it is simple, it is uncomfortable and messy. The point where we enter soul is exactly the same point that is most objectionable and most distasteful to us. But it is precisely this point where faith begins to take root. Spirit arrives and stirs up the thick globby goop we are unconsciousness of.
Greek mythology points to the god of the illness. In the story of Demeter, the mother of Persephone, she places a mortal child in a fire to “make him immortal.” Let the illness also be the cure. Accept diabetes, or any other illness or affliction as part of who you are without letting it define who you are. That is the key to wellness.
There is a funny movie from the nineties called What About Bob? Bob (Bill Murray) is plagued by paranoia and obsessive compulsions and his doctor Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) is his psychiatrist. Throughout the movie Dr. Marvin struggles to overcome the problem of Bob, who insinuates himself into his and his family’s lives. Bob effectively wins the hearts of everyone in the community except for Leo, who becomes more and more angry as the movie progresses.
What strikes me is that Leo represents the spirit – the anima, and Bob represents soul – the animus. The family plays the role of balance and or how spirit and soul can possibly meet somewhere in the middle. Fay and the children love their father and they also love Bob. They continually work to find the middle ground or the balance between spirit and soul which are continually at odds. The movie is a comedy but I am amazed at the way the writers use this theme to drive the story.
Soul Needs Spirit and Spirit Needs Soul
Without soul the spirit flies into the sky without a tether to earth. People who are trying to lead this spiritual type of live, whether it is with religion, an aggressive work strategy, or any other type of single-minded approach to life, are plagued with the outcomes that result from a lifetime of high-mindedness, lofty aspirations, fundamentalism, and perfectionism. Until they learn to appreciate the soul qualities of life.
On the other hand, the soul without spirit remains in the puddles of life, left behind to live within the confines of humanness and a dull existence punctuated by fear and anxiety. Until he finds his spiritual purpose and individuality where he can begin to rise above his existence to see a larger world.
We need both; spirit to motivate us to reach our highest ability, but soul to keep us tethered so we don’t fly too high into the sky, only to come crashing to the ground when reality hits us.