Several weeks ago now I was blessed to hear singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer in concert. Since the first time I heard her I have been enthralled with her ability to put words together that speak beauty and power while calling the listener to a deeper understanding of self and how we move in the world. Since the concert I have bathed myself in her music and it was while doing this that I came across a line that has been haunting me. Tucked in among images rich and varied, she sings this confession: “I’m traveling faster than my soul can go.”
Those words pulled me up short. ‘I’m traveling faster than my soul can go.’ Several times since rehearing these words…because I am certain I had heard the song before and was perhaps traveling too fast to really hear…I find this line flitting through my brain, an ear worm of sorts.As ear worms go, there could certainly be worse ones. And as confessions go, I know its intention rings true for me.
Soul. In circles in which I travel the word ‘soul’ can get bandied about fairly capriciously. Yet, I wonder, if we ever really are sure what we mean by it. Webster’ says it this way: Soul…the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. Stated that way, we are talking about something pretty important to be found speeding away from.
It may seem crazy but I have often thought of ‘soul’ as the great umbilical cord in which I am connected to the Creator. Soul is the place of nourishment, the connector that reminds me that I am an embodiment of holy stuff, sacred stardust, have been from the beginning and will always be. So, again, not something to be moving so quickly past that I am lured into forgetting this connection.
Speed is the great distraction from so many important things, isn’t it? I don’t think I am alone in moving headlong into the speed of what needs to be done, accomplished, said, felt, heard nearly every day, from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning. We speed through meals, conversations, decisions, meetings, on the freeway. We wear the ‘I’m so busy’ statement as a badge of honor, a sign of just how important we believe we are.
And what about our souls in the process? What gets lost? What gets damaged? What is forgotten or neglected? And what happens to a culture when a group of people collectively move about ‘faster than their souls can go’? Where will it take us? Where has it taken us?
Yesterday, I was blessed to hold a little one new to the world. Two months old and already looking into my eyes with questioning and a wisdom he brought with him. Holding him in that swaying movement we all revert to with an infant in our arms, I felt his soul and my soul resting together, connecting to our breathing, and the very Breath that holds us both and will always do so, no matter what. For one whole hour I was traveling at the speed of my own soul through the gift of his presence. When the visit came to a close, gently kissing his sweet, baby-smelling head I walked back out into the world in a different place from the rushed entrance I made into his home. My life had caught up with my soul. I had caught up with my soul.
The poet Anne Sexton, who struggled with depression and so much darkness, said “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” That kind of deep listening can’t happen at high speeds. It most often is best done while sitting still, staring into the middle distance looking at a scene of something we love and cherish. Like a lake or a mountain or the face of someone we love…especially the face of a baby.