Thursday, May 2, 2019

Old Soul at the Party

I found it in the mailbox one day. A card inviting me to my friend Meg’s retro-themed dinner party. “Come as a literary character from the 20’s – or come as any writer from the past.”

Meg, the hostess, wore a long black dress with rows of fringe from top to bottom. I showed up as myself: An Old Soul. I came as my favorite writer: myself. Crazy sounding, I know. But it’s true. Why not be honest about it? Most of the current writing I’ve read doesn’t speak to me like my own words. Just being real.

I sat my wallflower self at the table over the spread of hor d'oeuvres while the butterflies mingled, laughing and talking about whatever. The old family dog with his gray chin stood under the table, his head on my lap, eyes looking up at me as if to say, “Hey, it’s you and me, kiddo.” I went into the kitchen and retrieved dog biscuits so the two of us could have our own little party. If dogs could talk he’d have said to me, “Back in my day the only toy we had was a stick.” 

After a while one woman came over and spoke. “So what are you reading these days? An awkward moment. I had to think about it. No New York Times bestsellers, that’s for sure. I wasn’t in the book club. I hardly know what’s out there these days. Finally I basically said I was writing the book I wanted to read: A story about Jonathan: a young man who’s an Old Soul himself, trying to navigate his way through the modern world, struggling to reconcile opposite worldviews. An excerpt showing this Old Soul’s thought process:

“How to find the middle ground between science and superstition? When reading the gospels it was clear that Jesus went about casting out devils and unclean spirits from all those possessed. I found at least 30 deliverance stories from Matthew through John, so there was no denying that he had authority over evil spirits. After sending them scattering he likely brushed off his hands and told his disciples, “Nothing to it. It’s super-natural. Bring ‘em on, I got this.” But nowadays people aren’t demon possessed. That’s crazy talk. Archaic superstition. We’ve advanced beyond all that. We’ve outsmarted the apostles of old and their charismystic ilk.

Jung wrote, ‘Since the world began, mankind has been possessed.’ Evil spirits, renamed, have become unconscious complexes. Nowadays they aren’t cast out but subdued with drugs. Nowadays Legion would be institutionalized for life along with Charles Manson, and his psychotherapy sessions would continue until the day his possessed soul left his body. When asked what made him happiest, he’d tell his shrink, ‘I love it when they come to my room and say, Time for arts and crafts.’ Which was also my sister Lizzie’s favorite part of the day. Nowadays folks aren’t oppressed by demons, they have a chemical imbalance. ‘Nothing a little electroconvulsive therapy and antipsychotics won’t take care of,’ says the White Coat from his hierarchical throne.”

Throughout history Old Souls have struggled to reconcile these opposite worldviews, which is evident in their writings. Mark Twain is the first one that comes to mind. “We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we have gained by prying into that matter.”

Robert R. McCammon is another. “We were born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of us.” Carl Jung said that “only fools think that everything can be explained. The true substance of the world is inexplicable….”

You might be an Old Soul if you’ve managed to maintain your sense of wonder and belief in miracles in the postmodern age. If you can still view the world through kingdom eyes like Mary Oliver, who communed with God through creation, you might be an Old Soul.

You might be an Old Soul if your vision of the world comes from within rather than from external sources. If the sights and sounds you hear come from dreams and inner visions more often than from a computer or TV screen, you might be one.

What about you? Are you an Old Soul too? I’m not talking literal age but mindset. How would you characterize an Old Soul? What reasons would you have to show up at the party as your Old Soul Self?   

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