What’s a Soul?

One day in a class at church, someone brought up the idea of the soul, starting a conversation about souls and what they do after we die. I listened for a while and then asked, “What is a soul?” For the next half hour, we discussed souls.

Allow me to share some of the ideas I heard and, in parentheses, I’ll share what my mind was saying to me. I think I was the only person who didn’t contribute, but I did tell myself to shut up and listen many times.

Here are some of the thoughts:

“A soul is the spirit of a person.” (What’s a spirit?)

“It’s a person of quality. A good ‘soul.’” (Who gets to define “quality”?)

“When we die, it returns to God.” (Which god? Where? What does she/he do with billions of “souls”?)

“It’s in every living thing.” (Mosquitoes? Bacteria? Poison ivy?)

“The soul is the emotional energy of art or an artist.” (Does that include abstract art?)

“Food.” (When I even think about soul food, I put on ten pounds.)

“Our soul lives forever.” (Where? Why?)

“Ethnic pride equals soul.” (That is a stretch for me.)

“Then there’s ‘soul’ music.” (That usually implies that only black folks can correctly play that kind of music.)

“It’s what leaves a person when they die.” (My favorite image from Roman Catholic pictures pops up: a heart with wings flitting upward toward heaven.)

“The seat of human beings.” (For a minute or two I sort of understood, but after thinking, I realized I didn’t get it.)

“Emotional energy.” (Huh?)

“An expression, ‘Oh my soul!’” (This has nothing to do with the topic.)

“American Indians, when they died, didn’t care about the body. The soul lived on.” (Where did it live?)

There were more, but I didn’t or couldn’t write them down because they were so convoluted.

When there was silence, either because there were no more definitions or people were tiring of the topic and wanted to move on, I raised my hand. The leader acknowledged me, so I asked, “What’s a soul?”

This exasperated some, and others must have thought, Where’s he been for the last half hour?

I suspect some saw my point: it’s impossible to define the word “soul,” primarily because there is no such thing. It’s just one of those words that we banter around as if it means something. I know I’m not very good at biology, but I have never seen, in any book, a body part labeled “a soul.” And I never will because “soul” is simply an empty word.

I know when I die, I’ll be dead, stone-cold dead, and no little heart with wings on the sides is going to float out of one of my orifices and flutter to heaven. (Where’s that?) I know this for two reasons: (1) There is no such thing as a soul, and (2) it’s silly to think that some nonexistent nothing is going to head into outer space and orbit around creation for trillions of years.

Oh my soul! I’ve gone on for much too long.

Do you have a soul?


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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