Friday, June 12, 2009

I've Got Soul

Before I continue with my fascinating May travels, I want to philosophize a little. (Warning: this philosophizing includes theologizing.)

Last month, I created a quiz on Facebook: "How well do you know Anna Eagar?" (Oh, the life of a bored 20-something.) Among many close friends and my entire family, one of my brothers-in-law was the only person with a passing score. Some of the others made a fuss over their low scores.

One of my sisters asked what was up with my existential questions: "Where does Anna refer to as 'the place of my soul'?" "What does Anna imagine death will be like?" and "What does Anna imagine her soul looks like?" She also pointed out that my answer to the last question is not in line with Mormon doctrine. The multiple choice answers were a) freshly fallen snow sparkling in the sunlight, b) a brilliant diamond refracting rainbows of light, or c) a single shaft of sunlight in a dark, empty space. Most people answered "c," but my answer was "b," which has led me to muse over the meaning of the word "soul."

I looked at Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. Soul: "1 : the immaterial essense, animating principle, or actuating cause of individual life. . .3 : a person's total self." To me this sounds a lot like personality: "1 a : the quality or state of being of a person b : personal existence. . .3 a : the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual. . .the totality of an individual's behavioral and emotional characteristics." Both soul and personality are the abstract totality of a person. In many contexts, we could use them synonymously. Mormon theology also believes that the soul is the totality of a person--the combination of a person's spirit and physical body (I won't get into the details now). Thus, the soul looks like the physical body.

In my quiz, I obviously wasn't asking about my soul from a Mormon perspective, but I'm not sure the other perspective works either. If I replaced the word "soul" with "personality," like my friends, I would answer that mine looks like a single shaft of light in a dark, empty space. My personality doesn't radiate and sparkle like a diamond. Its light is as beautiful but somehow softer, more poetic, less in-your-face and blinding. But I posed the question because I believe some part of me looks like that diamond. So what part of me is it?

Light was the focus of each image. What is light? Back to Mormon theology. Doctrine and Covenants 93:36: "The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth." Light is intelligence.

What is intelligence? Abraham 3:22-23: "Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good." In this passage, intelligences refers to our spirits, what we were before we had bones and muscle and blood. Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19: "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his dilegence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." Here, intelligence has a more familiar meaning; it's still an abstract and difficult term, but it has something to do with knowledge. So our intelligence, or light, is the sum of what we were before we lived on earth and what we gain on earth. (That kind of goes along with the idea of the soul being a totality, which is probably the connection my mind made.)

This makes sense in light of New Testament scripture (no pun intended). King James Version, Matthew 5:14-16: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Everyone has or is light. You can hide it; you can isolate yourself, close yourself to people, never let them in or share yourself, but then the world will be dark. John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Christ has the most light of any person who has walked the earth, and he can give it to us.

What does your light look like? And has anybody seen it lately?

Current songs: The Killers, "All These Things that I've Done" (you know, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier") and Dishwalla, "Counting Blue Cars" (you know, "Tell me all your thoughts on God")


S'mee said...

This is amazing. I enjoy your thought process.

I think my light must be infrared, seen by some, completely oblivious to others. Powerful, dangerous, mysterious. Able to pin point or sail through the universe.

Dang it all if I ain't amazing.

Bekah said...

Lately it has felt like my light has burned out. But that could just be the PMS.

To clarify, I did not complain about my low score. I complained about your hard questions and misleading answers. And I think that perhaps the diamond-like part of you is one that you don't always share with people--we catch glimpses of its beauty but then it hides away. I love the quote by Nelson Mandela:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won't feel insecure around you. We are born to manifest God's glory within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

And for the record, I'm not opposed to existential questions (although they are tricky in a multiple choice format). When Greg forced me to watch the latest "Rocky" movie, I was less than thrilled with the idea. But then I began to notice that Rocky was asking an awful lot of such questions. I renamed the film "Rocky: The Existential Journey" and we both found it much more entertaining than we would have otherwise.