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A Beautiful Soul, Part 2

 Then Jesus said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34

Last week, I began a series of reflections about the pure essence within each of us – our beautiful soul. I quoted lyrics from Don McLean’s song, Vincent, that reflect how there is a part of us that is truly too beautiful to be appreciated by or safe in the material world. Only when we connect deep-unto-deep, soul to soul, can our most vulnerable centers express safely. Our physical existence, though beautiful and enticing, becomes cold, cruel, and manipulative when it represses its spiritual essence. Our spiritual nature desires to manifest in physical ways, whether in works of art, dance, food, children, or stimulating conversation. Truly beautiful and timeless works and performances come from a place deep within the artist that connect with a similar place deep within the audience. As long as we are physically embodied, our souls long to connect with other souls in meaningful, physical ways.

Part of our inner struggle results from our souls being eternal while our bodies are mortal. The soul was never born and will never die. Our physical nature clings to that which the spirit creates, not wanting it to change and grow, knowing that growth eventually leads to decay and death. Our souls let go of embodied creation easily and gracefully, understanding that the natural life-cycle for every embodied thing is growth, decay, death, and rebirth. The soul knows that this process allows the earth and everything on it to be reborn as a new creation, increasing diversity, and expressing the fathomless creativity of the Divine.

Our individual souls are conduits for God’s Spirit. They are our connection to God, and through that connection, where we are interwoven with everything else in creation, including with each other. An embodied soul can be (imperfectly) thought of as a clothed body. We put on clothes to protect our bodies from the environment, to fit in with those around us, and to prevent ourselves from being seen naked. Small children have no such inhibitions. As we grow we become ashamed of our bodies, self-conscious of every seeming imperfection, and prefer to hide them. We become more focused on our external persona than the essence within. The same happens with our soul. We fear that expressions of our soul will be denigrated in this physical realm, and so we try to keep them hidden and repressed. We recognize our soulful expressions as manifestations of our most pure and truest self and feel vulnerable when we allow others to see them.

Guitar players develop callouses on their fingers. This is necessary to protect one’s fingertips from the guitar’s strings. Without them, fingers become painfully raw and playing guitar becomes a torturous experience. Every so often, the callouses grow too thick to feel the strings, however, and must be reduced in thickness by filing or picking them off. Guitar players seek a balance between protection and the need to feel the strings. Well-adjusted poets and artists find ways to express their deepest responses to the world while guarding against unhealthy or excessive exposures. These are possible metaphors for the balance we seek in exposing our beautiful soul. The soul wants to express and experience life in all of its raw, physical beauty, but it must at least partially shelter itself from the physical pain that can result from such vulnerability.

A powerful example of a soul seeking to connect deeply with other souls is found in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He consistently ignored the social and religious conventions that did not encourage soulful expressions. He criticized rules and regulations that served no purpose other than to keep oppressed people oppressed. He sought to free people from that which kept them trapped in their material existence, saying, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[1] Even as he was dying on the cross, he asked God to forgive his executioners because they did not know what they were doing. When we deny the expressions of our beautiful soul, we do not know what we deny to ourselves and others.

Again, in the words of Don McLean from his song Vincent, “They would not listen, they did not know how…”[2] The fact is that we cannot understand or appreciate a soul’s beautiful expressions unless we allow those expressions to connect with and move in our deepest being. Only in such moments of shared vulnerability can a connection be established that allows us to hear and appreciate the unearthly beauty of a soulful embodiment.

More next week…

This is the 30th in the series of Life Notes titled, Praying With One Eye Open.

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[1] Matthew 6:21

[2] Don McLean, Vincent. Universal Music Publishing Group, 1970.

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