A Soul is Not a Thing
by Bob Mesle
John Cobb, Jr., wrote: “A soul is not a thing.” Recently I performed a wedding in a beautiful natural setting in Washington State. Some of my thoughts there help explain why I am a process-relational thinker.
“It is no small matter that Kate and Max chose this place for their wedding. Obviously, they both love spending time in nature. But nature also powerfully reveals what marriage is about. Consider the air we are breathing right now. It does not merely pass in and out of our lungs; it becomes part of every living cell in our bodies. We are MADE of this air. Consider also the water which flows in these creeks, rivers, and clouds. When we drink this water, it does not merely pass through us; it becomes our living cells. We ARE this water. Nature reminds us of our deep union with each other.
What is true of our bodies is also true of our souls. Since I am a philosopher, let me tell you a great secret of life—a soul is not a thing, it is not something which stands untouched by the events of your life. Your soul is the river of your life; it is the cumulative flow of your experience. But what do we experience? The world. Each other. So your soul is the cumulative flow of all of your relationships with everything and everyone around you. In a different image, we weave ourselves out of the threads of our relationships with everyone around us. But clearly, some people, some relationships, are the central threads of that weaving.
Kate and Max, as you live together over time, remember that you will be creating your lives, your souls, out of your relationship with each other. Kate told me that Max knows that the path to happiness is paved with tiny pebbles as much as it is by the big stepping stones. And that is true. Whether we think of weaving our souls, or laying a path we will walk, the small things matter so much. So have a care what you give each other for your self-creativity. Each smile or frown, each touch, each kiss, each kind or angry word, becomes the material out of which you both create your own life and life together.”
I was converted to process thinking in a sudden flash of insight that the future does not exist. More on that another time. But it took a long time for me to fully appreciate the importance of the relational aspect of process-relational thinking. The process is inherently, inescapably, profoundly relational. You and I are made of stardust. We are made of all that has gone before. When our daughter, Sarah, was nursing her 3 month old son, the only food he’d ever had, she said with awe, “He’s made of me.” We are all made of others. We are made of the world.