Hey, Soul Sister

| November 13, 2013 | 2 Comments

My friend Sarah never asks me how my day was. Instead, she asks “how’s your soul?” The first time she did this I was taken aback. I couldn’t just say “good” (although at the time, that would have been at least half-true). I had to pause and ponder, because it was a thoughtful question and I owed her a thoughtful response.

* * *

 Soul, n. I. An essential principle or attribute of life, and related senses. 1. The condition or attribute of life in humans and animals; animate existence; this viewed as a possession of which one is deprived by death. 2….the essential, immaterial, or spiritual part of a person or animal, as opposed to the physical. 3. The seat of a person’s emotions, feelings, or thoughts; the moral or emotional part of a person’s nature; the central or inmost part of a person’s being.
(From the Oxford English Dictionary)

* * *

I grew up singing Soprano I, in an uppy falsetto that got me familial adulation but never the lead in musical theater productions. Even so, I pursued theater in college, and played Ginny Weasley my freshman year. Just for kicks, I sang her ode to Harry Potter in a saucier mezzo belt, something very out of character for me. After our first show, a God of the BU musical scene thanked me for my performance. “There was soul in your voice,” he said.

* * *

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

(This has been [mistakenly?] attributed to C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Walter Van Miller, Jr., and others.)

* * *

It was once believed that sneezing ejected a piece of your soul, making it susceptible to evil.

One of the many possible origins of saying "bless you" after someone sneezes comes from the idea that in sneezing, they're ejecting a piece of their soul, making it susceptible to evil forces. || photo credit: tranchis via photopin cc

photo credit: tranchis via photopin cc

Saying “bless you” was designed to prevent this.

* * *

I’ve never lived in South Campus, but a few years ago I found myself in Professor Anjulet Tucker’s Park Drive apartment for what she’d deemed Soul Food Sunday. As I nibbled on okra, Professor Tucker asked me where I was from.

“A small town outside of Atlanta.”

“Where? I went to Emory!”

“Forty minutes west of the airport, you’ve never heard of it.”

“Try me.”


“My sorority sister lives in Hiram! She’s an optometrist in the Walmart there.”

I was wearing glasses that night.

* * *

I’ve started taking bubble baths, which is the only way I used to get clean as a child but is somehow now a luxury. I sometimes bring a book, but usually just try to submerge as much of myself as possible. I like to keep the water as still as possible and actively not pay attention to my breathing.

* * *

* * *

The story goes that at Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes suggested that original humans were shaped like a circle, with four hands and four feet and two faces looking in opposite directions. Children of the sun had two male faces, children of the earth had two female faces, and children of the moon had one of each. Zeus, in typical Zeus fashion, decided to split these round people in half, leaving them with belly buttons so they’d remember that they were once attached to another being.

“Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the tally-half of a man,
and he is always looking for his other half.”

Some say that Aristophanes is offering an origin story for homosexuality, or platonic love, or for soul mates.

“These are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires.”


featured image credit: joansorolla via photopin cc

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Category: featured, Philosophy and Religion

Rhiannon Pabich

About the Author ()

Rhiannon was once asked to write a "bland, professional bio" and she failed miserably. She is, however, good at some things, which include yelling in hockey arenas, explaining the importance of comprehensive sex ed, and pursuing adventures. The journalism major hails from the deep south and, on a good day, enjoys scintillating conversation and copious amounts of caffeine. On a bad day, she enjoys sarcasm-laden conversation and obscene amounts of caffeine (but really, isn't every day a good one?). She likes playing with paint, crying happy tears, red balloons, and you.

Comments (2)

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  1. Robert says:

    When you write, “bubble baths, which is the only way I used to get clean as a child”, do you mean that just using soap wouldn’t've gotten you clean as a child? Or do you mean that as a child you refused to bathe without the water’s being foamed?

  2. Emma Kalff says:

    Vignettes of the soul! This is beautiful

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