Caring for our neglected souls 

We live in a culture that knows almost nothing about souls.

The word is used so rarely, it may soon drop out of the language altogether. And who treats us like we have souls?

We are treated like consumers most of all. At every turn, we are told to want things, to buy things, to eat things. More and more and more. And in the process of all our consuming, it is actually our souls which are consumed.

Next, we are treated like information systems. The nonstop compilation of information is supposedly a good thing. But in the info glut, we’ve come to know less and less about our souls. And our souls, which cannot be fed by information, grow thinner and more malnourished.

Next, we are treated like target markets, lumped together masses to be pandered to and manipulated in an effort to get us to do this and vote for that.

Even our friends do this to us. Our email inboxes and our text messages are filled with requests for information and action. “What’s John’s friend’s contact info?” “Pick up milk on the way home.”

My favorite concert video is U2’s Elevation 2001: U2 Live from Boston. In it, Bono isn’t just engaged in a horizontal relationship with his audience, he’s continually looking upward, engaging with God.

At one point, he half yells, half sings the word “soul” over and over again. It’s like he’s trying to remind us of something we’ve forgotten, neglected. He’s trying to wake us up to a reality we’ve fallen asleep to.

We have souls. And so too does each person we engage with. The question is: Will we engage their souls or just their access to information, just their ability to do something or buy something?

The easy thing is to keep in step with our soul obscuring, soul crushing culture. But this is what Psalm 14 cries out against:

Don’t they know anything,
all these impostors?
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this—
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they’re too busy to pray? (Psalm 14:4)

The psalm decries the result of godlessness, of prayerlessness. When we lose our sense of God, we lose our sense of soul. We stop praying, stop living out of the depth within us that has everything to do with God, with the holy. We stop dealing with the holy in each other, treating one another like fast food that is gobbled down without a thought, a taste, a prayer.

In contrast to the outside world of landscape, poet Gerard Manley Hopkins referred to this vast interiority of soul as inscape. I love that word and find it quite helpful.

Just as our landscape goes wild and fruitless when no longer cultivated, so too does our inscape, our soul. And we cannot tend to each other’s souls if we do not consider and tend to our own.

There is more to this world and to each one of us than what we have, what we consume, what we know, and what we can do. There is a wide interior country. There is soul.

It’s time to start living from the depths of our souls, connecting soul-to-soul, praying soul-to-God. This is where our real humanity is rediscovered and restored.