Musings: On The Soul…
“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde
“Whether if soul did not exist time would exist or not, is a question that may fairly be asked; for if there cannot be someone to count there cannot be anything that can be counted, so that evidently there cannot be number; for number is either what has been, or what can be, counted.” Aristotle
Can The Soul Be Sold? Today, one of my twins and I watched another episode of The Simpsons: Bart Sells His Soul, (considered one of the top five best episodes of the series) that tackled a complex subject; the Soul. It is a topic that Aristotle wrote about in his treatise called, On The Soul, in which he argues that “the soul is the form, or essence of any living thing; that it is not a distinct substance from the body that it is in…” While many spiritual traditions have a somewhat similar definition, there are some that “teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects (such as rivers) have souls. The latter belief is commonly called animism. ” I was inspired by the episode and this post is the result of my reflections on it.
Do you believe we have souls? Well, let’s get back to Bart… The scene starts in church where Bart has tricked the congregation into singing the “hymn” “In the Garden of Eden” by “I. Ron Butterfly” (based on the song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly). He distributed the lyrics to “In the Garden of Eden” as a replacement to the hymn Reverend Lovejoy had picked. The Reverend found out from Bart’s friend, Milhouse, that Bart was the culprit and decided to punish both boys by having them clean the organ pipes. While the boys were serving their time out, an exchange occurred. Bart became indignant when Milhouse claimed that he ratted his friend out because he feared damnation of his soul. Bart retorted: There is no such thing as a soul… It is something said to scare kids; like the bogey man! There is no such thing as a soul.” Whoa! Right away, I tried to imagine how the nuns would have reacted if I said that in my Catholic school… but I believe we are souls in human forms.
“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” C.S. Lewis
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”
Jalal ad-Din Rumi
As the boys argued back and forth, Bart made Milhouse an offer he couldn’t refuse. He offered to sell his soul for $5 to Milhouse… Milhouse accepted. The deal was sealed, Bart signed off on a sheet of paper, and all seemed fine until Bart told his sister Lisa. Lisa chided him by saying that the Soul is the symbol of everything fine inside… and is the most valuable part of us. Bart didn’t seem to care. He was still lackadaisical about it and instead told Lisa, “I’ll sell you my conscience.” I thought that was pretty funny. Soon, Lisa started planting doubts in her brother’s mind and before you knew it, Bart decided he wanted his soul back. Of course, Milhouse offered to sell it back for $50. After much rigmarole, and there’s a hysterical scene with Ralph Wiggum you can’t miss, Lisa bought Bart’s soul back with her piggy-bank savings and gave the sheet to Bart. She then told him that while she believes we have a soul, some believe we are not born with one but have to earn it through prayer, hard work and other forms of supplication… That last part gave me food for thought. Is the soul earned? We often read about our soul’s work, the soul’s struggle, selling the devil a soul, and the dark night of the soul (attributed to a poem by St John of the Cross), and Lisa’s comment made me stop and take another look at the topic. Is the soul a privilege or a right? What do you think? More below…
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“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.” King Solomon
“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls – of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.” C.S. Lewis
When I was growing up, the nuns made it clear that our actions were tied to our souls, and if we did bad things, we’d end up in purgatory or in hell. It haunted me; like it did every child who attended Catholic school… Who wanted eternal condemnation for telling a silly lie, taking an extra piece of fruit, gossiping or what have you? Of course, let’s not even talk about the episode: Donut Hell, where Homer, Bart’s dad, sells his soul to the devil for a donut! Oy vey! The admonition from the nuns made us acutely conscious of our conscience, and while I am grateful today for my Catholic upbringing, it didn’t make for a very adventurous childhood… Still, we are human and we routinely went to confession for our endless, inevitable sins. ;-)
When I started exploring Eastern spiritual teachings, I was introduced to another perspective on the subject. The Soul/Self, I was told, is beyond reproach. It is not affected or tainted by our actions; it is the witness of the embodied self and doesn’t experience the dark nights or struggles we encounter… So what does it look like? When I took another look at the many interpretations/definitions of Soul in Wikipedia, what struck me was the word “essence” which is more a quality than an image. I can understand that the Soul could be seen as the mystical, inexplicable yet knowable aspect of ourselves. I can understand that some people don’t care to know if they have a soul or not. However, when it comes down to it, like the lesson Bart learned, we might be better off not dismissing this most complex yet valuable essence we all have. Whatever you do, don’t sell your soul. ;-)
♥What are your thoughts? Do you believe we have souls? When you think of the soul, what does it mean to you? Can it be bought and sold? Do share! :-) Thank you. ;-)
*Please bear with me as I catch up on your blogs and commenting… Thank you all for your patience! :-) *
Positive Motivation Tip: While the soul might be a complex subject to tackle, it remains the most valuable essence we all have.
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