GNL number 88

a report of doings at meeting #88, Sunday, October 19, 2014
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard. ~Anne Sexton

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying, some days yes, some days, no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues. ~Nick Hornby, in High Fidelity


Our hostess Louise opened this conversation on SOUL, and richly, with thoughts and stories from her life, citing, for instance, much music, from Motown to Sibelius, with the power to connect us with something very big, basic, shared; and that often invokes the experience of oppressed people, as when the blues brings kinship.  She spoke of a couple exchanges with her daughter Iyana, who remarked that soul is happiness that can accept sadness, and later when Louise had spoken of the beautiful fall leaves dying so gloriously, Iyana said, “Yes, that’s soul, Mom!” (Louise also vividly recalled dancing to soul, and joyous Jamaican music, and invited us all to a dance party she was planning in November.

Nancy said she thinks of Soul as essence, or inner truth, your deepest guidance or wisdom, maybe not even in words, and yes, the all-inclusive Self shared with everybody and everything else.  Louise’s comments set the stage for her own in several ways. N was thinking of music as connector too, music of power and beauty, whether classical, folk, or of course soul, gospel, the blues. Which recalled something else shared and comforting: soul food. She also read two excerpts that reflect her ideas, from Emerson’s essay “The Over-Soul,” and Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart.

Sue again gave us the benefit of her investigations into our topic’s word origin and definitions, which covered what we’d brought up earlier and much more, including common expressions, like the soul of kindness. She also brought a fine array of quotations that ranged from the really old guys, like the classical Romans Horace and Cicero, to Kahlil Gibran, and one especially appreciated contemporary wise one, Woody Allen.  For all these, see AFTERWORDS.

Anna first updated us on her life in the country up in Carlisle, where she had been not only enjoying the honking of great numbers of Canada geese at the nearby pond, but also closerby, the recent addition to her and Janaye’s own collection of animals and backyard birds: a dozen or more domesticated white ducks. And it was again clear that animals, wild or not, have been very important to her soul.

Ann came in at the end bearing the news that Gertie, the elderly friend she and Elliott had been caring for, had died peacefully early Saturday morning while Ell was there. Ann had also just seen Elliott off for the West Bank, where he will be spending the next two months as part of the VeteransforPeace-MetaPeaceTeam effort. She will post updates on this regularly as much as possible. The topic Soul had been her idea, and she said she thought of soul in terms of essence, and was interested in how to connect with that. It seemed to us she and Ell are very much in touch with Soul already.

Our friend Adair, who had planned to be here, was only with us briefly between urgent errands for her very ill friend Maddie and husband, and in fact was on her way to take Maddie to the hospital.  In the meantime Adair was dealing with several other issues, including a sick dog, broken washing machine, and leaking tires.  We armed her with cheese and crackers and Sue’s tire inflator, and hugged her goodbye.

It was a meeting small in numbers, but memorably big in ways that really count. Not only for all the helpful words, but for the Soul we saw in action here this day.

We decided to direct our offering this time to Doctors Without Borders, especially for all their work related to the ebola crisis.


Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing.
~Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not For Sale


Sunday, November 16, 2014 (1030), at Louise’s Sky Hill farm if weather’s kind enough. (Stay tuned for a Plan B.)   The topic is FEAR(S).


from Nancy

  • “Music is an outburst of the soul.”
    —-Frederick Delius
  • an excerpt from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on The Over-Soul:“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles.  Meantime, within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE.  And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.  We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”
  • from Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: (where Pema speaks of Bodhichitta, a Sanskrit word often defined as awakened heart, said to be present in all beings, which) … “at the relative level, is felt as kinship with all beings. At the absolute level, we experience it as groundlessness or open space…. Bodhichitta is available in moments of caring for things, when we clean our glasses or brush our hair. It’s available in moments of appreciation, when we notice the blue sky or pause and listen to the rain. It is available in moments of gratitude, when we recall a kindness or recognize another person’s courage. It is available in music and dance, in art, and in poetry. Whenever we let go of holding on to ourselves and look at the world around us, whenever we connect with sorrow, whenever we connect with joy, whenever we drop our resentment and complaint, in those moments bodhichitta is here.”

from Sue

Definition & Origins for soul:

  • the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever
  • a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature
  • the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.
  • the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life

Origin of the word SOUL: Middle English soule, from Old English sāwol; akin to Old High German sēula soul

Of uncertain origin but “Sometimes said to mean originally “coming from or belonging to the sea,” because that was supposed to be the stopping place of the soul before birth or after death [Barnhart]; if so, it would be from Proto-Germanic *saiwaz (see sea). Klein explains this as “from the lake,” as a dwelling-place of souls in ancient northern Europe.


  • “Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” ~Henry David Thoreau
  • “Why do you hasten to remove anything which hurts your eye, while if something affects your soul you postpone the cure until next year?” ~Horace
  • “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.” ~Cicero
  • “Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.” For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals. ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923
  • “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of another boy. ~Woody Allen

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