Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hole in My Soul

Krista Tippett (of NPR’s Speaking of Faith, now called Being) is moderating a discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences in December entitled "Perspectives on the Self." The first session is called; "To Be or Not to Be: The Self as Illusion." That might seem like esoterica to most folks, but it is right up my alley.

What is the soul? What is the self? And how is the immaterial aspect of humans related to the physical. It is the old body-soul debate in new clothing.

After building the Jerusalem temple Solomon stood back and wondered what he had been thinking when he started the project.  "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built?” Solomon knew that it is impossible. His temple project was a failed concept.

It is said that God dwelled in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, especially the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant. How can this be? How can the infinite inhabit the finite? How can the immaterial indwell the material?  How can the spaceless be in a contained space?

If this is true of religious temples, is it not also true of the human body and soul? How can a soul or spirit inhabit a body? The apostle Paul complicates matters by talking about “spiritual bodies” at the resurrection. What the heck are those? It is like speaking of square circles.

The first time I heard Norah Jones’ song “Creepin In,” I thought she was singing, “There's a big ol' hole that goes right through my soul.” (Actually she says “sole” – as in shoe leather - but I heard “soul.”) I perceive a hole in my soul – a big ol’ hole – and it seems like it is getting bigger all the time, and eternity is creepin in.

The hole is now big enough for me to see through. It is like a built-in Hubble telescope peering into the depths of space. Through this hole in my soul I glimpse the universe and its Creator. It is like one of those wizardly tents in the Harry Potter novels. It appears small on the outside, but when you step inside it is enormous. My soul feels boundless when I step inside.

I am getting much too esoteric here. But my point is important – at least to me. What is the essence of a human being? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience." Furthermore, what does this say about the Incarnation – God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ?

Anyway, here I am pondering my holey soul and the holy God. As I look into the depths I do not see anything that appears to be me. All I see is what is not-me. Where did I go? Perhaps I slipped through that widening hole in my soul.
Image is “The Flame Pierced a Hole through My Soul” by Esther Alinejad. Stoneware, wire, bone ash, and cayenne Pepper.

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