Over time we develop coping strategies, talents, and quirks that make us “who we are.” These more accessible interpretations of the heart’s groans eventually form a personality and character, a central role we play in the world; the soul of who we are. Tattooed by the will of the heart and made accessible by the structures of the mind, our souls reach out to touch the world and make real connections.
We get picky. In some ways nothing more clearly makes a person distinct than their preferences--what they like and don't like. Some preferences are surface expressions of our deeper selves and some are reflections of old stories, but in the end one of the easiest ways we show ourselves to each other is by make selections of what we'll listen to, engage, take in and pursue.
The confluence of crisis which is penetrating the world is captured in one word: soulless. We are selves without soul, saute without spice, persons without personhood. This leaves most people you rub shoulders with everyday, people who were designed by God for full, rich, multifarious living, to function as empty shells of personality, all ego and no self. We find ourselves living in a house of scaffolding with no walls, no furniture, no soft places to land. But it need not be this way; hope arises in the ancient wisdom.
This question of the lines (more like fuzzy fogs) where one of us ends and begins is what we—in ThirtySixWords jargon—call SOUL. Soul is a notoriously tricky word because it is used in such multivocal ways, even in the Bible. It is sometimes used to refer to the deepest part of person (what we call HEART), sometimes used to encompass the emotions, and sometimes is used as we use it here, to define something more amorphous and fluid: the sum total of our acquired personality and character. We find it easier to grasp not that you have a soul (an immaterial object that you own which may or may not live on into eternity) but that you are a soul which is being made and defined by your drives, passions and interactions with the world around you. In short, the SOUL is your deep HEART made public.
As I sit at my desk after a long weekend of writing, editing, designing and reflecting, I am most palpably aware of how insufficient it all often feels. Particularly in these days. Regardless of one’s political persuasions it would be an abdication of reality to ignore the escalation of fear and the ease of offense which permeates our existence.
All the constructs of the mind, the beliefs that we hold, converge into a sense of ethical standard: our moral code. Moral code acts as a short-hand for decision making, keeping us from having to wrestle with the ethical implications of every move we make. It is a tool for fast decision making. But code, like all of our soul, is warped by our stories and commitments, calling out for a reformation which can only come from a deeper truth, a more pervasive beauty, an all-encompassing love.
The soul, the seat of personality, holds on to things longer than we need them. Our habits of action, of language often out-live their usefulness. “Who we are” is often “who we’ve gotten in the habit of being.” Habits calcify the rules of our Codes, put our Preferences on repeat, give us repeatable run-arounds to avoid the Peeves and Anxieties we hope to never meet again.
"I don't know why, but that just bugs me." This is the voice of a peeve. Some of our peeves are pets, cute little quirks that are laughable like a dislike for digital watches or ringlets. Others are ingrained resistances to old memories, lived out in the present day as a way to protect us from the potential risk of repeating old wounds.
What brings a person peace is as diverse as what brings them agitation. For some it is the comfort of silence, for others it is the encasement of symphonic sound. A touch or not; a warm pillow or cold watermelon water. As a balm to unmet wants, our comforts can be a reprieve for negative emotions.
Hiding deep behind our anxieties are the old wounds. Our deepest fear is that we will relive them over and over again. Each person's anxiety is triggered in ways that remind them of the forgotten past, but the sense of danger from anxiety is more atmospheric than fear. It is the feeling that lurking around every corner are the ghosts of the old stories, versions of life and of ourselves we thought we'd escaped by now.