Ah, sheer poetry. About the soul. Featured on the front page of The Oregonian Living section yesterday, of all things. I've poeticized a quote from Gunther von Hagens, creator of the Body Worlds 3 exhibit that I wrote about recently.
In the exhibition
the pure absence of the soul
underlines the soul
The longer I am
the closer I am
to the soul
I was surprised by the tone of the story, headlined "Exhibit or exhibitionism?" The reporter, Nancy Haught, must have gone out of her way to find people who were offended by this display of plastinated human bodies (plus a camel).
All of the people who donated their bodies did so voluntarily. Yet the story had numerous quotes along the lines of this ridiculous observation from a Unitarian minister (I'd expect a Unitarian to be a lot more open-minded).
People volunteer for all sorts of things. People volunteer to be prostitutes. People volunteer for genital mutilation, to kill themselves. That doesn't mean society should cooperate with their wishes.
My take is that underlying this sort of how could they?! reaction to the exhibit is the commonly held assumption among religious types that the soul, if not itself physical, still is closely linked to the body.
Why else would so much valuable real estate be taken up by graves? This is a great income producer for casket makers and embalmers, but theologically is absurd.
When the body is dead, it's a goner. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Finito.
If there's anything of us that survives death, it sure isn't material. There's no evidence of anyone being resurrected, notwithstanding the blind faith of Christian true believers (and members of other religions with similar supernatural dogmas).
So if you want to hang on to a belief in something spiritual – call it "soul" – that lives on after we die, any sort of physical evidence of it belies the belief.
When it comes to the soul, nothing trumps something.
That's why I liked von Hagens' statement so much. It's deeply profound, though I doubt most Oregonian readers appreciated it sufficiently, being a bump in the road on their dash through the Living section to the comics.
Spiritual emptiness: it's a good thing. The very best.
I don't know if the soul exists. But if it does, I'm pretty sure it won't be found in any familiar place. Like, the body. Or thoughts. Or feelings. Or perceptions.
It'll be hanging out where the really wild things roam.
Nothingness. Which, if you believe physicists and mystics, is a close kin to Everything.