Darkness for the Spirit and Soul
What's the difference between the spirit and the soul? If you’re looking for a precise answer to this question, prepare for disappointment. Ask four people, and you will receive four different responses.
They may tell you to look in the literal and figurative dark times of life for answers to difficult questions. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a new friend, Otis Moss, and my dad served as guiding lights to extract the spirit and soul concepts for this week’s post. Read on for insights.
In Ta-Nehisi Coates's book, Between the World and Me, he writes, “The spirit and soul are the body and brain, which are destructible – that is precisely why they are so precious.” Through these words, Coates clarifies the value of our lives. His reflections came in the aftermath of his friend's murder by a police officer.
Coates's book is a poignant letter to his son about the intersections of race, racism, gender, and inequalities in America.
The previous quote continues with, "And the soul did not escape. The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings. The soul was the body that fed the tobacco, and the spirit was the blood that watered the cotton, and these created the first fruits of the American garden." Coates’s references to gospel wings, tobacco, and cotton, critique the relationship between Christianity and the enslavement of Africans in the United States.
As Coates suggests, are the body and brain synonymous with spirit and soul? Before re-reading Coates's book and several conversations with a new friend, I used the terms interchangeably to describe the inner voice and other parts of us invisible to the human eye.
Merve is a father, husband, and counselor from Antigua with college basketball experiences in my home state of Illinois. He is the type of person who challenges you to grow through meaningful discussions about relationships, religion, spirituality, health, and work. Look for friends like him in your life.
When we talk, I often need to go deep into my psyche for answers to his questions. For example, we've debated the differences between the spirit and the soul. He pulled in his go-to source, the Bible, to explain his perspective.
Isaiah 26:9 NIV reads, " My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning, my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness." Scriptures such as this support perspective of the spirit and soul as separate parts of us.
Someone, not Merve, compiled a list of biblical references to the spirit and soul. After one of our conversations that left me with a headache from overthinking, I searched for new reading material.
Otis Moss III’s new book, Dancing in the Darkness, Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times, led me toward clarity. I consumed the 125 pages of Moss’s insightful manuscript in three days. Throughout the insightful, comical, and poetical chapters, I underlined almost every mention of spirit and soul.
In chapter three, “Redirect your Rage,” Moss describes how a woman who lost her oldest son to gun violence found the strength to transform the tragedy into a cause. With her church community, she organized protests, offered rewards for information about the killer, and met with law enforcement. Through references to Marvel superheroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Malcolm X, Moss suggests that our spirits for love and justice do not possess limits.
We are capable of more than we think in difficult, dark times. When we strive to realize our potential, we possess the capacity to access spirit and soul powers.
After contemplating Coates’s words, my conversations with Merve, and the stories in Moss's book, I asked my dad about his opinion. He shared how theologians often debate varying perspectives of the spirit and soul. Then he sent me back to stage one.
My dad said, "You know the body is temporary. Our spirits and souls are eternal." Feeling confused, I attempted to explain my perspective.
I believe our souls reflect who we are now; the spirit is what we leave behind and continues after physical death. This belief differs from Coates's comparisons of the body and brain to the soul and spirit but is similar in his appraisal. My definition reflects conversations with Merve, talks with my dad, and Otis Moss’s interpretation of King’s legacy.
Our spirits and souls are complicated creations from our Creator.
Are you disappointed? At the start of this post, I told you about the challenges to give you a clear definition. Merve and I are contemplating starting a podcast to invite others into our conversations. Continue to read this blog for updates.
In the meantime, buy Moss’s book, Dancing in the Darkness, Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times. It's a solid read with practical strategies to find light during the darkest moments in life. Moss’s teachings may help you manage your emotions and respond to the latest round of mass shootings in the United States.
The familial, communal, and pastoral stories in each chapter of Dancing in the Darkness inspired and illuminated my before-sunrise workouts and the solutions to problems impacting my life in Antigua.
Otis Moss begins and ends the book with a story about an alarming sound in the middle of the night. To investigate the disturbance, he climbed out of bed and grabbed a baseball bat to deliver justice to an intruder. What he found in the dark hour of his home inspired several lessons vital to your soul and spirit. Buy your copy at this link.
Stay tuned for next week’s post about problems in paradise.