Halloween is also this time of year.
The holiday began with the ancient Celtic Samhain festival, where people set fire to bonfires and dressed to ward off ghosts. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III made November 1st a time to honor all the saints.
I like to think of Halloween more universally as a time to remember and respect all souls.
But what is the soul?
It’s a question that children confuse their parents. It’s like asking other great questions that children raise and adults try to answer. For example, what happened to someone after they died, what happened before nothing was gone.
Even if the answer is difficult, it can be important to ask a question. Philosopher Aristotle said that philosophy begins with wonder, so perhaps retaining a wonder is at the heart of what it means to be completely human.
I once asked students in the philosophy class if they had a soul, and most looked at me with a blank look, confused by their faces. When we discussed the question, the students were often wondering about the question, but said that no one had asked to answer the question.
We were talking about some of the early philosophers’ thoughts about the soul, many simply saying that the soul is spiritual to show the difference from the body and matter. The soul was considered as an unimportant part of human beings, and in fact, all living things.
The word “soul” is the Greek word for “nephew” and refers to each person’s inner self, such as mind, will, and emotion. It was this notion of the soul as a real self or a real person when Jesus warned of losing his soul in pursuit of other physical interests such as the accumulation of wealth.
Long ago, soul care was essential to happiness. Both Plato and Socrates believed that this effort was the most essential human need. Socrates believed that practicing philosophy, that is, questioning and pursuing the truth, takes care of our soul, a kind of remedy that promotes healing and wholeness.
Of course, in some other traditions, the soul is the vibrant spirit of the entire universe, including plants and animals. Our dogs and cats look more soulful than some of the people I know, and even trees feel full of vibrant spirit. Perhaps that’s why writer Alice Walker was able to write, “I know that cutting a tree causes my arm to bleed.”
Historians also write that a country can have a “soul,” a network of animation principles, in this case the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s why it hurts when people violate these basic norms by their actions — they are hurting the souls of our group.
I think I can spend my whole life trying to define what the soul is. It’s the same kind of effort that some criticize focusing on unanswered questions, such as discussing how many angels are in Pin’s head.
But taking care of your soul and inner spirit is just as important as taking care of your body. It is imperative that you take the time to look back on your life, live ethically, and respect your inner and outer souls.
It may never be possible for everyone to find an intellectually satisfying definition of the soul, but it misses the point. As a principle of the essential animation of life, the soul cannot be reduced to a simple formula. Perhaps that’s why one of my students came up with the wisest reaction: “I can’t define what the soul is, but I know it when I feel it.”
John C. Morgan is a writer and teacher whose weekly columns appear in this and other newspapers.
Soul care is essential to happiness – Daily Local
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