Every now and then I get involved in some interesting discussions with friends at the local cigar bar. Last evening (as I type this) I got involved in a discussion about the human soul, the value of it, where it originates, where it goes after we die and so on. As you can imagine, everyone has their own ideas and beliefs and the best part about the discussion held last evening was that no one involved felt their belief was the ONLY correct one. Everyone involved was open to thinking about the ideas of others and seeking new answers; answers that might make sense than whatever the current belief happened to be.
As a result of that conversation, while driving home, the value of the human soul was still on my mind… and my brain felt like it was spinning a bazillion miles per hour. (“A bazillion” is my favorite high-but-not-quantifiable number, so I use it a lot.) What is the value of a human soul? Does it have that value when you’re born? Does it develop through your life? Does it change dependent on how you live your life? Or how you die? Through that line of rumination, I remembered two others pieces I’ve written and the thoughts began to intersect. One was about refusing to be a victim and the other was about how, no matter how much a quarter is abused or defaced, it’s still worth the same value: twenty-five cents.
I’m going to try to weave all of this together in a philosophical construct that makes some kind of sense, but it might get a bit long and it might seem a bit abstract until closer to the end. Forgive me… it’s just the best I can do and hopefully it’ll prove worth reading in the long run. Keep in mind as you read the next paragraphs about being a victim and the value of a coin that I’m eventually winding this all back around to the value of the human soul.
Being a victim: In several previous writings I’ve shared the philosophy my father taught me about being a victim. His teaching was: “If someone needs your help and asks for your assistance you should provide it if you can. If they need a dollar and you can afford to give it, it’s your human responsibility… it’s your moral duty to do so. However, if someone demands a quarter from you and you don’t want to give it, make them have to take it; be willing to kill them to keep it. Always be charitable. Never be a victim.”
I like to think I’ve held that philosophy close and followed it as he intended it to be. I certainly have refused to be a victim and I’ve attempted to help others anywhere I could without sacrificing my family’s health or welfare. As I look back on his teaching though, I find it interesting that he chose to use the terms “dollar” and “quarter.” Last night as I thought about human souls those terms became important in my thoughts. But let me explain the connection…
The value of a coin/quarter: Again, in previous writings I’ve told the story of how, during a fairly down time in my life, I found a quarter in a parking lot. I picked it up. It was all kinds of abused, nicked, scratched. One edge was so ragged that it tore the lining of my pocket. It looked how I felt at that point. I took it home and put it in my jewelry box (where it still is) because it reminded me of me… but it held a valuable lesson. In spite of how beat up and abused it was, it still held the same intrinsic value that it did when it came brand shining new off the mint press. It’s value had NOT been reduced due to the abuse it had been through and, in fact, all that abuse “gave it character.” It was unique; not like any other quarter out there. That simple reality gave it a greater value than even the new shiny quarter fresh off the mint. It gave that quarter sentimental value (for me). It was an interesting moment when I realized that not only did being abused NOT lower the value of the coin but that it’s roughed up appearance; the proof of a difficult life and journey gave it greater value… based on my outlook.
(Those complete entries are part of my book “A Fork in the Road” available on Amazon at this link.)
Measuring the value of a soul: So… here we go; potentially the most contentious part of this entry. What is the value of the human soul? Does it grow? Can it be reduced? Is it greater or lesser dependent on how the life it’s attached to is spent? Sacrificed? I’m sure some of my thoughts will prove disagreeable to some. I ask that you keep an open mind and at least consider what I share. You don’t have to agree… just think about it. Follow this seemingly winding path of thought and (hopefully) we’ll end up where I intend to go.
I had a religion teacher once talk to us about life and death and the path of travel for our soul. He drew a picture of a circle on the chalk board (that’s what we used way back before white boards were created). He said that circle was made to represent a sphere so we were to think about it as a ball… not a two dimensional circle. Okay. Picture that. Now, he said, you’re born and you enter this sphere from a given point. He made an X on the left side at the 9 o’clock position. Then, he said, that person/soul travels through life and he started drawing a line from that 9 o’clock in toward the center of the circle. But life is never straight and unwavering so that line is hardly ever straight. It takes twists and turns. Sometimes it strays near the borders of the circle; a position that indicates it gets close to passing out of this realm of existence. And then, at some point – although we never know when – that soul passes out of this realm (this life) and into the next… whatever that may be.
Most religions have a heaven or hell or equivalency. When we die and our soul is freed from us, it goes somewhere. I’m not here to debate that. My thoughts last night focused on what the value of that soul is from when it enters this plain of existence (this life) and on through to such time as it passes out of this plain. For the sake of easier thinking I decided to think in percentages: a quarter value soul, half value, full value… and then realized I was thinking in dollars and cents; actually the quarter and the dollar. (This is the part where I have a hard time articulating my thoughts, so bear with me.)
Working with the assumption that our soul has “full value” and referring to that as “a dollar” when we’re born, what happens to it as we live? Do souls increase or decrease in value? I realized that if “full value” is a dollar then we can’t increase the value of our soul if we’re born with a full value soul… so, for the sake of easier thought, I decided to consider a freshly born soul at half-value or two quarters: fifty cents.
So, as we live our life and we do good deeds, can we increase the value of our soul? I believe so. The opposite is also true though: if we do bad deeds we can decrease the value of our soul. The goal, in my mind, should be to increase the value of our soul so that when we pass out of this plain of existence, it has full value; maxed out; can’t get any greater. But that thought made me wonder if HOW we pass out of this life can impact the value of our soul. I decided… absolutely yes.
Think of the criminal who dies in the commission of a crime; he dies doing evil. To my way of thinking he has decreased the value of his soul to rock bottom and, due to his choices, actions and circumstances, exists this life with his soul at zero value… or very close to it. Contrast that with the man who dies as he sacrifices his life to save that of another. He makes the ultimate sacrifice to give someone else a chance to continue to improve their soul. That man’s soul has maxed out value as he exits this life. It is the ultimate irony that such a great sacrifice maximizes the value of a soul that can no longer grow or be shared.
So, if how we leave this plain of existence can impact the value of our soul, I consider that further support for the belief that how we live can increase or decrease the value of our soul… and I thought back to my father’s philosophy on being charitable or being a victim and then further about my outlook on the value of an abused quarter.
If someone needs your assistance and you have it to give; if someone asks for that dollar and you can afford to give it, it’s your moral duty to do so. Every charitable act you perform increases the value of your soul. (What if that’s your life that you’re sacrificing to save them? That selfless act maxes out the value of your soul.) However, if they DEMAND the quarter you don’t want to give, fight to the death to defend it. Don’t allow someone to take from you in any manner that decreases YOUR value OR THEIRS. (Protect your soul and the inherent value it has at all costs.)
The end goal is to have your soul worth as much as you can manage to grow it before you pass into the next plain of existence… whatever that may be. I have to believe that if a low value soul passes on then the afterlife isn’t increased in positive energy as much as it could or should be. If a maxed value soul passes into the afterlife then the contribution to the positive energy is maximized.
Or maybe I just need more coffee? All thoughts and observations… feedback… comments are appreciated.