What is the Soul of a Man?

Some might say the soul is an illusion, a notion created out of primitive mythology and a self-serving desire to break free of our physical constraints – that the so called soul is really nothing more than complex brain chemistry reacting in the fireworks of electricity passing between synapse as a response to the ontological predicament of self-aware sentience.

This is modernity’s explanation of who you are. That your deep unsettled longing to find significance, meaning, and purpose to your life — leading you to believe that beauty, justice, and love have intrinsic transcendent value is just a trick of the mind, merely the pragmatism of your survival instinct hardwired into your DNA kicking in, designed to perpetuate you, your species, and life in general . . . for no apparent reason.

I’m often told that to hold such a philosophical position requires absolutely no faith – because the evidence is incontrovertible . . . as if evidence were self-assessing. But to peer into such a dark nihilist abyss; a darkness so bleak that it devours all light of hope; devoid of any meaning whatsoever, and filled with the randomness of chaos – and then to sustain the assumption that this is the only tenable ontological explanation . . . I believe takes an extraordinary amount of faith.

My faith discipline scientific-proofs-for-the-immortality-of-the--L-NuNXP_leads me to believe that man’s soul is divine spark – that we are set apart from creation so that we might bear God’s image. This is an immutable assessment of worth predicated on an unimpeachable transcendent source. It is a value we can neither merit, nor sustain, and is entirely impervious to our opinions. My significance cannot be determined without it, and I am not at liberty to determine anyone else’s significance outside of its purview. It is the universally essential baseline.

This particularly comes to mind in light of the incessant bullhorn rhetoric of identity politics with which our culture is currently immersed. There appears to be a considerable amount of disagreement over whose lives matter most, where everyone is offering up their own self-important existential pronouncements . . . without giving the first thought to addressing the most fundamental question their assertions imply . . . if any of our lives really do matter at all – to whom do they matter?

I can’t make my life matter to you and you can’t make your life matter to me — no matter how much red faced insistence is imposed; no matter how many laws are passed; no matter how menacing the intimidation. Our lives either intrinsically matter, or they don’t. If they matter it isn’t because we have decreed it so – it is because God has already made that assessment. And if God doesn’t exist then the idea that our lives matter is absolute fiction – it’s nothing more than the empty rhetoric of self-inflated delusion. So the only question you need to answer is: Do you trust God’s assessment that we all bear his image, and therefore all of our lives matter, or do you pretend to be God, and assume your opinion is all that matters?

Couldn’t resist including this Bruce Cockburn interpretation of the traditional gospel blues song “Soul of a Man”


Chasing Light

As an artist, I have become keenly aware that my mind is seldom at rest. I am not speaking here of the banal functions of occupationally punching the clock, or pre-occupationally surfing my electronics. I am not even referring here to the steady drone of inner dialogue we all have going on inside of our heads — bemused and snarky in reaction, ruminating in real time our emotional state, or perhaps nothing more than the mumbling incoherence of our non-sequitur thoughts. All of these are more like the white noise backdrop of what I speak.

There is a layer further down the rabbit hole where my mind is constantly working the puzzle, turning the tumblers, cracking the code of what it all means just to be here – to exist in the presence of the grand themes of life, playing themselves out perpetually on every scale. Good and evil. Love and hate. Hope and fear. Light and dark. As well as all of their many embedded themes – forgiveness and retribution; innocence and guilt; tenderness and cruelty . . . and so on–too many to even mention here.

These themes seem to show up regularly on my doorstep, and even though they come cloaked in various disguises, they continue to invite me to interpret anew their subtle symmetry – and for whatever reason, my subconscious mind obliges . . . so I pull a thread through all of the disparate pieces that have collected around me — and I begin to create.

To move from text to subtext, from plain sight to behind the curtain, requires a primer for solving such a riddle . . . and my primer is my Christian faith. It offers me context and balance, that I might know simultaneously all of my dark places, as well as the refracted glory of Eden’s light still burning within me. It finds me in my deepest need and infuses the steps of my day with meaning and purpose . . . and at its very center I find relationship.

Because it’s in relationship where God meets me, it is where He speaks my name as if my name were the lyric of a love song so beautiful, that just to hear Him speak it, I am completely undone by its beauty. And in being so overwhelmed, I’m compelled to sing his song everywhere I go, to everyone I meet – making every relationship I’m in sacred.

This is the glimpse of light I receive, more often than not, out of the corner of my eye – but even so, it sets up an abiding longing in me for just a little more . . . so I pursue this light with abandon. I am transfixed by the inscrutable way it teases agafiltering_sunlight_in_the_forest_by_jesus_at_art-d4v67g8inst the window of my perception, as it dances across the face of darkness, until in the grace of its chiaroscuro, the whole of my understanding of the world is made new by its illumination.

The artist intuitively knows as a practical matter, that in the creation of any composition one must identify its source of light, so as to know where to place the shadows – and what the length of their reach is as they fall. This is why I am always so eager to learn the distance the light is traveling, the way it touches everything in its path, the way it is able to overtake me and move through my life – as it makes its way to another. And this is why if you find me with a faraway look in my eye – it’s more than likely because I’m off somewhere chasing light back to its source.