The soul can mean many things.
The word has connotations with music, for example. We have heard of soul food, soulmate, the life and soul of the party.
In my writing, I strive to connect with my soul, an inner force. I feel that my best words derive from true feelings, a passion, my innermost convictions and beliefs.
This connection cannot be switched on and off like a TV set. Nor is it easy to surf different channels with the remote until I find the “soul” channel.
Rachel Toor recently wrote –
“How do you help someone learn to write with “soul”? What does that even mean? What does it look like on the page?
Pascal said, “When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man.” I think that’s a fine definition of writing with soul, except, of course, for those times when we see a woman. Soulful writing is human—essential, authentic, honest, flawed, contradictory, messy. We see a person with ideas and emotions who claims our attention not because she has all the answers, but because she is struggling with vexing questions and trying to figure something out.”
I found that passage when I researched the word soul in the context of writing.
Possibly a more literal and scholarly version of these thoughts on ‘soul’ in a writer, taken from Pascal’s Penseés, is to be found in the Modern History Sourcebook of Fordham University, a Jesuit university in New York –
“When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man. Whereas those who have good taste, and who seeing a book expect to find a man, are quite surprised to find an author. Plus poetice quam humane locutus es. ¹ Those honour nature well, who teach that she can speak on everything, even on theology.”
Through the writer’s words, one can sometimes sense the person. It’s a form of connection between author and reader. Dare I suggest it is a liaison that is more difficult than listening to the spoken word.
Listening to the speaker, one can hear the cadence in speech, the emphases, and idiosyncracies. It is easier to connect (or disconnect) with the speaker especially if one can see him or her at the same time as listening.
Writers, both soulful and dull, are often a complex mixture of introvert and extrovert. Hemingway immediately springs to my mind. An extrovert bon viveur who plumbed the depths of his soul to write the truth as he saw it.
Me? I’m still learning my craft as a writer. I have a long way to go.
An extrovert? Yes. Introspective? Yes.
My regular nightly routine is quaffing two cold beers and eating my favourite Nagaraya Hot and Spicy Cracker Nuts. I sit alone on my roof terrace stargazing, thinking.
My brain was doing the thinking. However, I sensed the reactions to my thoughts in my chest. I was thinking about my departed father. I was filled with a sense of love. My chest rose and fell. I thought – why my chest? Why did I sigh deeply?
Is that why people clutch their breast when they panic? My thoughts asked.
The thought pattern continued – the brain thinks but the soul takes over. Is that why people associate love with the heart? After all, that is also in the chest area of the human body.
That would also explain the deep pain felt in the same area when heartbroken, I reasoned with myself.
These ruminations reinforced in me a belief in “soul.” After all, the brain is but a highly sophisticated computer. It’s our souls that breathe life into the computer.
I have no idea if the soul rises from the mortal body on death. That is best left to the Jesuits, philosophers, and God. Of the three, only God knows the answer to that and He sure isn’t letting on anytime soon!
¹ “You have spoken more poetically than humanly.”
Featured Image: Courtesy of Louish
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I am a nonbeliever in the God of Abraham. However, I do believe that there is a higher power. That higher power I call the soul. The soul to me is our connection to each other, and everything seen and unseen within the universe. We are all one. As Shakespeare said in the Merchant Of Venice: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?” The oneness we all share, to me, is that soul.
I was for many years a hospital orderly. I watched many die. I held the hands of many before they left. Doctors told me that the peace I saw on their faces was nothing more than the lost of muscle elasticity. And technically they are right. But, do we not feel the ‘prick’, the ‘tickle’, and the pain from being poisoned because we believe in the body more than the soul?
To me, the body is merely the vessel by which the soul struggles to attain peace. I am trained in hypnosis for pain relief. I have used hypnosis to perform dental procedures that would make the strongest scream. I have watched my patients, through hypnosis, attain that peace that the doctors would subscribe to as ‘lost of muscle elasticity’. Why do we have to struggle? Perhaps it is, “Attachment leads to suffering.”
The soul, to me, is the universal ‘us’. My parents and other loved ones are gone, yet their souls are not. The soul does not die it is locked within ‘us’. We are therefore, one with all. Or if you are a Star Trek fan, ”We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” LOL – We are the Soul . . ..
I really like reading your posts. You help me remember who I am.
I wish ‘us’ – Eternal peace.
Thank you, Jerry. I enjoyed reading your insights. It’s also comforting to know that someone enjoys reading my posts 🙂 “You help me remember who I am” is a great compliment. I like to think that when I write it is like having a chat or discussion with someone, invisible to me, in the same room.
At some point, I intend to tackle the point you make about the doctors and the “loss of muscle elasticity.” Pascal, in his writings in Pensees, has something to say about it. It’s a difficult subject but one I intend to approach in the future.
“All the excesses, all the violence, and all the vanity of great men, come from the fact that they know not what they are: it being difficult for those who regard themselves at heart as equal with all men… For this it is necessary for one to forget himself, and to believe that he has some real excellence above them, in which consists this illusion that I am endeavoring to discover to you.”
— Blaise Pascal
Well, now I have another to read 🙂
The soul is a very powerful thing indeed. In fact, it is the reason we are human truth be told. And without it, we would not be fulfilled people; our lives would be dull and no personal truths would ever be spoken into existence.
Now, it is in this article that I’m reading that I feel a personal truth coming through. I can feel the writer of who Steve is. There’s something highly inquisitive behind his words while remaining loose and not strict in thought. It’s impressive.
Thank you for sharing! 🙂 It was a delight!
Carlos, thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to comment on three of my posts. It’s really appreciated. The soul is indeed a powerful and mysterious thing. It’s interesting that when you mention soul you seem to equate it to a human phenomenon. I’m not so sure about that. I’m not an animist but I think they have a point; think of your pet dog. I do wonder if animals also possess souls? And, what about rivers and trees? I think it is Buddhism that believes there is a concept of soul in nature.
You are perceptive when you say about my writing, “There’s something highly inquisitive behind his [my] words …” I am inquisitive about life, people, nature.
I have my beliefs, opinions and faith. But, one of the great benefits of my education, both academic and the ‘university of life’, is that I strive to keep an open mind.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, maybe that should be soul, for your kind words. It means so much to me to know that a reader is able “to feel … who Steve is,” owing to my words.
Great article on soul. For me religion has it all wrong when they speak about your soul my soul I have a soul etc.. I am soul I have a mind a body but the I that I am is soul…