Let’s start with a blank sheet of paper. Better yet, let’s start with an example of starting with a blank sheet of paper.
You cannot taste or see the value of a dollar bill: you can only take it on faith. Granted, that faith is not blind and has many testimonies to rely on. But it is faith nonetheless, for the paper is not much good for wearing, eating, building, or burning; rather, its value derives from the confidence we all share in the U.S. economy. If this is hard to grasp for a $1 bill, consider a $100 bill or, say, a €500 bill. Whether or not you can read what’s written on them, their values are invisible.
The Milky Way still speaks. In fervent, adoring poetry as of a young man in love, so do all the other galaxies and stars and nebulae in the cosmos. Day after day their verse never ceases, night after night their voice never slows as it fills the universe with deep, magnificent utterances. Artists come and go; politicians change their tunes; thinkers think and then die, sometimes authoring ideologies that rise and fall and carry nations with them; even religions dance and sway with the winds of fashion as their merchants seek the most profitable hope in a desperate and maddening world; but the guidance of the stars and the knowledge they pour out – those revelations have endured from civilization to civilization, from generation to generation, from the painful memories of a depraved past to the awesome ambitions of a glorious future. If we can just get away from the city lights and find somewhere a clear open sky, we can always look to the heavens for a gentle, uplifting, uproarious word (Psalm 19).
This article was originally published in the Spring ’09 issue of Revisions, Christ and Mental Illness.
That which we call a soul would by any other name remain a mystery. For even if we give it another name we still cannot give it any tangible qualities—nothing to touch or see. So whether philosophers call it a superseded ontology or biologists call it a system of memes or neuroscientists call it a network of qualia, etc., all their abstract and esoteric words are still referring to the same thing: that invisible, untouchable, silent phenomenon summed up in the word you.