Our soul needs our attention

WoodstockI’m awash in emotion this Saturday morning. Weekends allow me the chance to drift, to let my mind wander the paths that it chooses instead of those I force upon it during the week. The Web is a great gift to mind wanderers, because its unstructured paths can (if you’ll let it) produce a sort of mind fuck serendipity that enables this wandering. I’m aware of a deep sense of soul this morning, and I want to write.

I began today with a YouTube video of an old Kurt Vonnegut speech to college graduates in Albion, Michigan. This came via Mediagazer, via kottke.org.

Vonnegut’s statements about how the arts grow your soul is what got me going. His view was that trying to make a living through the arts is the wrong way to view creativity — that it, instead, was the path to growing your soul, something about which he was extremely passionate. I profoundly believe this, and it’s a big part of what shapes my views of copyright and how badly we’ve mucked things up in that arena. The “copyright industry” sticks its bony fingers through the soul of creativity by turning it into a business. Shame on us.

As a writer, I believe that creative endeavors such as the arts should reward those who bring things to life from nothing, but I am strongly opposed to treating copyright as property law. Nobody owns creativity. It all comes from one source, and that belongs to everybody. I’ve written about this many times (here).

The soul. If you believe numerology, mine is an old one. Sometimes I think so; other times, I think it’s a child. I’m not sure when I first became aware of my soul, but I think it happened when I was very young. Soul awareness produces a kind of give-a-shit attitude about the usual trappings of life, and that’s always been my curse. The soul taps into the Lifestream of all things, because, as C.S. Lewis was fond of saying, “humans are like amphibians — living in two worlds at the same time.” The soul is where those two worlds meet and play in a never-ending here and now.

I call these two worlds life (small L) and Life (capital L). The only place they meet is in the here and now, and that reminds me of Blaise Pascal’s wonderful thought from The Penses:

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present, and when we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future…So we never live, but we hope to live, and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so.

Trust me: if you can find the here and now, you’ll never want to leave. Finding it, however, isn’t easy. Regret, shame and resentments bond us to yesterday, while fear and anxiety keep us in tomorrow.

My mind then took me to Woodstock, more specifically Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s song (video below) about the event and the particularly haunting line that “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

That is our quest, humankind’s ultimate quest, and it separates those more interested in Life than life. The baby boom generation seemed to grasp the capital L, which was a major threat to those who made a good living with small L life. I mean, who needs to get back to the garden, when this life produces a gardenesque living anyway?

But it’s an illusion. Small L life isn’t “real,” or perhaps I should say it doesn’t matter. What is the end of small L life anyway? As Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang, “Mother Earth will swallow you.” If you believe small L is all there is, then I feel sorry for you. On this issue, I side, again, with Blaise Pascal.

Ah, the soul? Nobody knows for sure, but I think the soul lives on somehow, some way, and perhaps that’s why Vonnegut’s words are so meaningful this morning. He advised everyone in that audience to go out, write a poem, show it to no one, and then tear it into pieces and scatter it. That simple act, he noted, would grow your soul, and, oh my, what that would do.

I think nations have souls in a way, too, and that ours is currently very sick. We’ve spent far too much energy at the feeding trough of mammon and not nearly enough time of late growing that soul. As Dylan wrote, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody,” and a day of reckoning awaits all of us. You want to know the solution for everything that ails America? Our soul is sick and needs attention. We need to create again and again and again.

So thanks for coming along on my journey this morning. Do yourself a favor and create something today. Perhaps if we all do that together, we’ll somehow find our way back to the garden.

And that would be pretty cool.


  1. Dr. Larry Bradshaw says

    I have read you regularly and have appreciated your Christian influence. Using a term like
    “mind f**k” is disappointing and demeaning.

    • Dr. Bradshaw: Thank you for your note, and I’m sorry you’re disappointed. As a writer, I choose my words carefully, so it’s there deliberately. It is just a word, however, and I wouldn’t have used it had I not felt it was appropriate for the discussion. In my view, words are the least of our worries, and if coarse language helps communicate with people that need encouragement, then I will use it. There are many paths of ministry and to plead the cause of the poor and afflicted is to know God. No where does it say I must keep my mouth clean in so doing. I realize that may be one of the accepted views of holiness or righteousness, but I’ve never been much for accepted views.

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