Measuring the Soul


I think the best measurement available to us of the dimensions of the human soul is found in our capacity to hold other persons inside our heart. By holding other persons I mean being able to truly care about them; to feel for them in their struggles and rejoice with them in their joys.  Sharing a laugh with them counts too.

Jesus said, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose his or her soul?” By gaining the whole world I take him to mean having our heart filled up with something other than compassion: with a preoccupation with our own personal success or failure. A person can be riding a wave of earthly success, so that things seem to be falling nicely into place and one’s personal domain of money, pleasure, fame, worldly power, etc. is increasing steadily, but if in the process it is only oneself that fills all the inner space, in a certain sense the soul has been lost. This is why sometimes it is actually better to lose than to win, because the impetus to stop and examine the state of one’s soul is usually greater when things are going poorly in our external circumstances.

In my experience the size of my own soul varies in this regard from day to day, even moment by moment. When I feel stressed — when I rush about consumed with getting accomplished some set of tasks that I have defined as all important — I close up inside. Other people cease to exist for me in any real sense. This state of existence is hardly living; “killing time” is a good description of this kind of life.

In a very real sense we need other people in order to help us escape the prison cell of self-preoccupation. All manner of other people: those most intimately connected to our lives, as well as those we call strangers, and everybody in between.

That’s about it. It’s Tuesday, so now I close down my computer and head off to my breakfast with the guys to keep from losing my soul.

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