Do we need a bit more soul?

September 25, 2021

Do we need a bit more soul?

“Soul is different from spirit; the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore 

It has been nearly thirty years since I first read The Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. I picked up a copy in about 1993 or so. I was impressed as I read this great thinker’s words, he had studied under James Hillman, and Hillman had been a student of Carl Jung. In his previous experiences, I found some similarities with my own that drew me to his writings. Moore had studied most of his life to be a priest, and after graduate school and wanting to do more than minister to a church, he went into secular psychology and therapy, leaving the priesthood. As I have journeyed through life over the years, my spiritual aspirations have evolved and deepened, although some might argue with me. 

“It’s the aspiring spirit that gives life to the intellect and keeps it from being just a mind and a set of ideas.” Thomas Moore 

It was nearly twenty years back. A student’s parent introduced me to an author that filled some voids in my thinking. I was coaching the high school swim team, and this parent somehow caught an inkling that I enjoyed reading about Native American thought. She recommended Kent Nerburn. Nerburn is an artist by training, and education with his doctorate is in sculpture. He traveled the country searching and practicing his trade, and in that, he began writing. I do recommend his works and enjoy his philosophy of life. 

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say while some fields will blossom, and others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made. And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than how is shared, and your life will have meaning, and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn

In traditional Native thinking, we are one with all. Existence is considered sacred and of importance to the interconnections. There is an interconnection and interdependence of all things. There is a thread running through all things. Many years ago, Chief Seattle said that “man is but a strand upon the web of life”. 

 “Soul is different from spirit—the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

My interpretation of what the soul is is not that far from where Thomas Moore identifies the soul? I have thought about this concept of the soul over many years. It is tough to define. I have read articles where researchers weigh bodies before and after death arrives, claiming there is a weight to the soul. We are such curious creatures, and when we find the answer, so we often ignore it. Somewhere yesterday, an article on flat earthers popped up. I have always been curious what’s on the bottom if the earth is flat, what’s on the other side? I wandered away a bit, but it is who we are that is the soul. The essence or substance of who we are. 

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, affect far beyond their apparent insignificance. “Thomas Moore

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul. “Thomas Moore

We journey through life following the pathway set in genetics, culture, society, environment, and many other factors. Each of us travels along a different path; we intersect at times and travel side by side. I have found that observing and listening and then perceptions give each of us another view of the journey. Somebody might say that our soul can decipher all of the input we have as we journey. Each of us will tell a different story of the same journey. 

“How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.” Thomas Moore

As I ponder the concept of soul issues of politics and societal contradictions come into play. Sadly, we have done this to ourselves. Living in a southern state that is either fourth or fifth in numbers of illegal immigrants primarily seems states with agriculture as a major commodity. Having worked with many students, I am sure it is questionable. I wonder how we have done things in the US. Growing up in Coatesville, Pa., I can recall having been asked if I was interested in working at Lukens Steel Mill. My dad, who was at that time in management, had been a union steelworker. All children were almost sure to get jobs if your father or mother worked at the mill when you graduated from high school. Ten years ago, on my last trip back to Coatesville, Lukens Steel Mill left nothing left. 

I was following the news as much as I can one item popped up in the past day. In the past few weeks’ legislation to stop tax incentives to companies outsourcing jobs was defeated primarily along party lines, although some democrats did help prevent it. We have been under the foot or maybe the boot of industry for some time and allowed to live a “happy” life until a more profitable means to do business comes along. I watched a Georgia Senator’s ad last night on TV as he promoted more flexible regulatory legislation and lower taxes and less government. The other side of the coin is that he also introduced a bill not to allow airlines’ unionization into Congress. Delta airlines is one of his biggest backers, and Delta has been in a fight for some time over unions. Delta is based in Georgia, which is a right to work state. Where am I going with unions, the way it was, and illegal immigrants, and outsourcing? We have stood by and allowed wages and perks of union-driven groups to go through the roof while driving product cost up and often driving the industry, such as steel, to leave the country.

We have allowed industries for as long as I can remember (not just in this political season) to hire and bring in illegal workers for jobs at low wages. Many of the industries doing this in Georgia also back Senators and politicians who, by chance, are Republican. We support outsourcing to the point that most customer service is a joke anymore on the phone. A recent ad played on this with a fellow in Siberia with fifty phones ringing. He answers, hello this is Peggy in customer service hold please, and proceeds to make a sandwich. I guess my issue is we have allowed this; we have allowed the banking and mortgage problems to happen because of our greed. Sadly, it will take more than elections to change the souls of people.

“When we relate to our bodies as having soul, we attend to their beauty, their poetry, and their expressiveness. Our very habit of treating the body as a machine, whose muscles are like pulleys and its organs engines, forces its poetry underground so that we experience the body as an instrument and see its poetics only in illness.” Thomas Moore

One piece of my doctoral studies and writing is based on the loss of soul in education, which I firmly believe is going on. We have taken creativity and imagination away in so many instances and replaced them with memorization exercises and drills. Critical thinking has taken a hit instead of teaching to the test. Texas was trying to ban critical thinking in schools. My first response was this is insane. Coming back to thinking about Thomas Moore and soul only reminds me that so much needs to be considered in our quest for improving education beyond the simple cure of more money and or more testing.

“There are apartments in the soul which have a glorious outlook, from whose windows you can see across the river of death, and into the shining beyond; but how often are these neglected for the lower ones, which have earthward-looking windows.” Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

We are so much more than profits or capital as some business minded educators refer to students as. Many of the school choice advocates live off profit-based companies who want into education and want those easy dollars. Several millions of dollars are being spent to open the market in Georgia this November. So for my Georgia friends, vote no on the Charter school constitutional amendment. Maybe if we could grasp that piece of us that some call soul and encourage a bit of fertilizer and replenish it so that imagination and wondering could take precedence over the type of clothes you wear, the car you drive, or jewelry that is hanging on your arm we might make some severe changes to our reality.

“Many of the religions I’ve been exposed to preach, reaching for an impossible ideal, and my attempts as transcendence have left me inevitably frustrated with myself, others, and my life. That is why I appreciate Thomas Moore’s philosophy. Here is, in a nutshell: don’t try to transcend your humanity, embrace it. Moore’s ideas would resonate with spiritual wanderers and people who view life as an artistic work in progress. When Moore was a therapist, he noticed that many clients would come to him, wanting him to remove a flaw of theirs. They went to him like patients seeking a surgeon to remove a tumor. Our culture celebrates light, and many feel ashamed when we aren’t happy. However, Moore contends that sadness is, in a sense, a gift, for it gives one depth and perspective. Healing can take time. It rarely occurs overnight.” An unknown blogger

 “Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library, and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I am into another day. I went out, took some photos, and have been sitting for an hour pondering and reflecting. At times I miss the students unleashed in the hallways, then again, perhaps I am still floundering in my meandering about the soul. It could be the chill of fall has me enthralled as I get out in the cool air in the mornings. But for today, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related) 


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