I was originally going to call this blog My Soul to Keep. I thought it did a nice job evoking a healthy skepticism with a slight nod to my childhood terror worrying about where we go once we fall asleep.
I ran into three problems:
1) I’m not really sure what the soul actually is.
2) I’m still not really sure what happens when we go off to dreamland.
c) It sounds like some stupid serial killer movie.
Now I know the soul is supposed to be our essence or spirit (two words that make me want to burn every Deepak Chopra book — and maybe the author himself) and is hypothetically supposed to live on forever. And I can certainly understand the great comfort and appeal of immortality, wrote the tall dude who may or may not have prostate cancer. I also know that this subject has been intensely debated since the days of Aristotle and by every philosopher that Woody Allen has ever made fun of.
I’m just not sure what the difference is between my mind/heart/feelings vs. my soul/essence/spirit. Aren’t they pretty much the same things? Is your soul something else apart? And if so, how did it learn to fly?
I only ask because I’ve always thought the lightbulb simply goes out when we die, and if you’ve ever been scared of the dark, no worries because … you’ll no longer be here! You will cease to exist! Good day, sir! And all of those wonderful memories and awesome emotions and the way you narrowed your eyes to show that you were listening when someone was talking to you, and everything else that made you YOU – your s/e/s – that stuff bites the big one with you! You can’t take it with you because – spoiler alert! – you’re not going anywhere. Cue Nelson Muntz.
I’m one of those non-believers who believes that the separation of body and soul is why religion was invented in the first place, mainly so we wouldn’t all freak the fuck out about the horror of dying. Whew! Heaven! What a relief! Jeez, I thought I was just going to wind up as nothingness! That was a close call!
I remember learning something in Hebrew school about God first creating the body and then breathing life into it and, according to Rabbi I-forgot-most-of-his-name-stein, that’s how the soul was born, and why we have a physical and spiritual self. And then I remember cutting Hebrew school for the next fifty years.
For me, the soul lives on in my heart and memory of the people who I’ve loved. Whenever I think about my father-in-law, Marty, who died two years ago and who I adored, I begin to well up with tears because I miss him, and almost simultaneously break into a smile recalling a passion for life that I’ve never seen in anyone else before or since.
That was his soul, and I was lucky enough to have been embraced by it when he was alive. And he’ll live on in my memory until the day I die.
But then that’s going to be it.