Souls And Selfishness

I am all about souls
Or so I say.
Show me who you are
On that level of true, deep, inner, shimmering substance
That can never be destroyed
Or even altered beyond certain small measures.
I want to see, touch, and taste that nugget of self
And feel a bond with my own.
We shouldn’t meld as one
But grow and soar further as two
Or three or twelve
Or however many I can reach in this strange and glorious way.

This is what I say
But do I mean it?
It’s complicated.
A little yes
A little not so sure
And a small but screaming piece that says:
No. No. No!

I mean… I want to know you if it’s easy
If I can think and feel deeply and it’s mostly good for me
Even though I’m sharing your struggle or your scratched-up grief.
I want to know you If I don’t wind up suffering more when it’s over
And I’m thinking back on our time together
Considering how it all went as I sip my tea
And take small bites of my cookie
Trying not to think about all those things that I try not to think about.

I find myself ready to cry in the middle of the day
While I’m in the ice cream store
Asking if they have butterscotch today
Or doing something else to take my mind away from souls.

Souls are great, good, and glorious
The sparks which create every thought and sensation
And maybe even every speck of matter.
Even the armrest by your seat on the bus
Might be carved out of souls:
The people who have used it
Or built it
Or invented it.
Or maybe it carries the energy of just one person
Who rested her arm on it as she remembered the day her puppy died
And sobbed, shocking herself
Because it was 15 years ago
And she didn’t even feel close to her puppy
As far as she knew.
Maybe her tears dropped onto that armrest
And sanctified it
Which sounds beyond miraculous
And it is
But miracles do not preclude misery.
Indeed, they can spawn it.

If God exists
I bet God cries
Precisely because God sees the miracles everywhere
And the souls
Even more easily than we humans see the dirty soda can
Resting in the snow.
If God doesn’t cry, ever, then maybe God isn’t God
Or maybe I just don’t know what I’m saying.
All I know for sure is this:
Souls are scary and difficult.
If you’re truly reaching down to the soul level of something
You might want to call all your buddies
And sing, dance, blow horns, and feast
But you also might find yourself
Dropping everything and finding a spot where no one can see you
So you can cry without darkening the day
Of another soul.

I tend to believe that only humans have full souls
But I also tend to believe that I’m wrong.
I’m many-minded like that
Or, if I’m being less generous with myself
I’ll just say I’m confused.

Take the puppy whose death 15 years ago
Undid that woman on the bus.
Where is he now?
Do puppies have souls?
I’m not even sure if humans have souls
Though my hope that they do is as strong
As any sun powering any solar system.
Yes, I’m aware that someone on Facebook
Will call me arrogant for saying that
But that person doesn’t understand my soul.
Let’s just leave it there
Even though I will probably argue with said person
And defend myself in an angry extravaganza
Because I have a whole lot to learn
About almost everything
Including how to avoid useless drama.

Back to the puppy.
I know many who see their pets as friends, even relatives.
“He was an advanced soul,” my cousin said of her dog.
“She was my spirit guide,” a friend said of her cat.
And a whole lot of me says:
“That’s absurd. Animals lack higher intelligence.”
I say it with a persnickety tone
Not out loud, just to myself
But then I doubt
In a big, big way.

I think of the day Lucky, my family’s dog, died
All those years ago.
I was in graduate school
And I was thrilled
That at least he had visited the campus
And peed right by my dorm
Marking his spot in the only way he knew how
A lively, curly little guy
Who really only loved my mother
Because he was smart.
He knew who was reliable
Who would take him out even in the painful cold
Just leaving with Lucky as my brother and I fought over whose turn it was
To walk him.

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Before I got the call, that song “Kumbaya” started playing through my head.
“Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya.”
I felt that Lucky had died, and that this song was his message.
And if he could send a message… well… animal brains don’t send messages
From the dead to the living.
For that matter, neither do human brains.
You know who does that?

Yes, I’m aware that there are plenty of alternate explanations.
There are always certain odds that “Kumbaya” will start playing
In a given person’s head
Whether or not their dog was going to die that day.
And, while we’re at it
“Kumbaya” could be interpreted in all kinds of ways
That have nothing to do with death.
This could just be a coincidence, of course.
I’m just telling you how I felt
How I saw it
What it meant to me
Right at that time.

Now, if dogs and cats do have souls
So do other animals, probably
You know: cows, sheep
Maybe even birds
And fish.

And then we start getting into that question
Of whether it’s OK to kill a soul for food
And you know me: I like my pleasures
And I don’t want souls to die
So I kind of prefer to put this question
In that odd, faraway place
That I visit every once in a while
With half of my mind
And a tenth of my soul
Because bringing any more into it
Might ruin my day.

I know someone will attack me here.
I know it as well as I know that trees exist
(Which of course we could question
But we have to assume something, sometimes).
Some will say that I live for myself, my pleasure, my gain
And that a higher, more advanced soul
Would look beyond itself and behave accordingly.

And I will respond to them in advance:
You’re right!
But truly advanced souls would not spend time
Making less advanced beings feel bad
About the state of their ethical development.
For that matter… ever put your hands on a tree’s bark
And feel a certain… maybe kindness is the word?
Maybe even a sense of love: a desire for your own wellbeing.
Ever feel greeted by the cactus in your friend’s kitchen?
Is it OK to kill a plant because your stomach needs feeding?
How far can we go with this thinking?
Who thought up this world
Where life and death are so entwined
That once-living entities course through the blood of still-living entities?

Perhaps one day I will feel all the souls like I feel my own heart.
I will feel as much for them as I do for myself.
I’ll walk over the grass feeling the soul prints beneath my feet
Breathe them in and take them into my own skin, my own blood
My own messy, generous mind.

For now, I am heading to NYC!
I’ll have some smoked sable when I arrive.
Yes, that’s fish that once lived, but I won’t worry about souls
Except to breathe in the teaming, wild air of the city
Soul after soul leaving its mark and its might
And maybe, if I’m sensitive but not too sensitive
Some of those souls will flirt with my own
Not in a sexual way, but in a truly soul way.
I’ll sense them and smile as I move through the streets.
They’ll infuse their own hope and happiness
Into my worried brain
And I will smile.
For now, that would be a miracle
And I would take it, no questions, no guilt
And enjoy.


Image Credit: Rhett Wesley on