When my first grandchild was born, I saw something in her that I had missed in my own children some twenty-five years earlier, when I was too young and self-absorbed to see anyone, including myself, very well. What I saw as clear and simple: my granddaughter arrived on earth as THIS kind of person, rather than THAT, OR THAT , OR THAT.
...In my granddaughter I actually observed something I could once take only on faith: we are born with a seed of selfhood that contains the spiritual DNA of our uniqueness---an encoded birthright knowledge of who we are, why we are here, and how we are related to others.
We may abandon that knowledge as the years go by, but it never abandons us. I find it fascinating that the very old, who often forget a great deal, may recover vivid memories of childhood, of that time in their lives when they were most like themselves. They are brought back to their birthright nature by the abiding core of selfhood they carry within----a core made more visible, perhaps, by the way aging can strip away whatever is not truly us.
Philosophers haggle about what to call this core of our humanity, but I am no stickler for precision. Thomas Merton called it rue self. Buddhist call it original nature...Quakers call it the inner teacher or the inner light. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity.
..."Nobody knows what the soul is,"says Mary Oliver, "it comes and goes,/like the wind over the water." But just as we can name the functions of the wind, so we can name some of the functions of the soul without presuming to penetrate its mystery:
*The soul wants to keep us rooted in the ground of our own being, resisting the tendency of other faculties, like the intellect and ego, to uproot us from who we are.
*The soul wants to keep us connected to the community in which we find life, for it understands that relationships are necessary if we are to thrive.
*The soul wants to tell us the truth about ourselves, our world, and the relation between the two, whether that truth is easy or hard to hear.
*The soul wants to give us life and wants us to pass that gift along, to become life-givers in a world that deals too much death.
Are "mu" and the "soul" the same thing?
Sheds a whole new light on saying "no" to a toddler!