Thoughts About Bodies and Souls

Posted: September 16, 2013 in red
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“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”[1]

It’s a quote often ascribed to C.S. Lewis, but the ever-petulant Internet has debunked that.[2] In fact, no one knows where it came from. What’s clear is that people have been saying a version of it for quite some time.

You break up your existence into two things. Academic people like to call it a dichotomy. D.H. Lawrence calls it a “divided psyche” and attributes it especially to Americans[3]. I really want to get into his thoughts on blood-knowledge and how Americans can’t even feel it anymore, because they’re so stuck in their heads, but that’s not where we’ll go right now.[4]

I think of myself as a body and a soul, even though intellectually I like the hypothesis that our existence is closer to an endless network of chemistry between the past, present, and future of our experience and memory. Every input is something new that reacts with twenty-seven years of sedimented history that lives in my neurons.

I can see my body in the mirror. I can touch it. I can feel the parts of it I like and the parts of it I don’t. I can feel the influx of endorphins when I exercise. But I can also feel things I can’t see, and I call them my soul.

Then there are stirrings in my body that color my entire day. They turn it red, and then everything I do all day looks red. There are stirrings in my soul, and I get really close to the mirror and look for them in my irises.

I don’t think it’s fair to say you are a soul any more than you are a body. You are bestowed things by the universe to call your own. The universe constantly flows into them and out of them; you cannot quarantine your soul from the world any more than you can quarantine your body.

If I had to choose between a life of pure touch and a life of pure thought, I would choose touch.

When two souls love each other, their bodies follow. When two bodies touch, the soul either runs to the surface of the skin or shrinks into the unknown where it can be safe.

The agonies of the body are never worse than the agonies of the soul. But I can feel the agonies of the soul dragging my body down. When I use my body intensely, it can lighten the load of whatever weighs on my soul, if only for a short time.

There’s a circle between the soul and the body. You cannot say you are one more than another. You have blood-knowledge. It tells you to do things that your mind classifies as stupid or wrong.[5] But it also tells you to do things that bring you closer to owning the center of what you call yourself.

I want to live in my blood as much as I live in my mind. Dichotomy-schmotomy. I want the whole thing.

[1] This post will have footnotes. Footnotes are one of the best things writing ever invented. Never, ever, pass up a chance to use footnotes.

[3] D.H. Lawrence. “Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Scarlet Letter.” Studies in Classic American Literature. Please, please read this book. If you have any interest in American culture, or if you even participate in American culture, which most everyone in the world does to some extent, please read this book. The best parts are the first two chapters and his essays on Poe and Hawthorne. Basically he says this country has floated on a sea of blood ever since it began and underneath all of our productive little Puritan spirits lies a maddening destructive darkness.

[4] p. 90-91: “Blood-knowledge, instinct, intuition, all the vast vital flux of knowing that goes on in the dark, antecedent to the mind….And on the other hand, the mind and the spiritual consciousness of man simply hates the dark potency of blood-acts: hates the genuine dark sensual orgasms, which do, for the time being, actually obliterate the mind and the spiritual consciousness, plunge them into a suffocating flood of darkness.”

[5] See Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. He lives in his blood; he’s a beautiful fascinating rotten man.


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