Gold in the sludge


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Category: Reflections Date: 04 Mar 01

The music is thud-thud-thudding through the foundations of the house, banging through the glass windows. It will go on all night. The brain’s screen is flashing fragmented images, laying shards of life before sleep-deprived eyes. Switch on the light. 


Read Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore, a former monk.


“The intellect works with reasons, logic, analysis, research, equations, and pros and cons. But the soul practises a different kind of math and logic. It presents images that are not immediately intelligible to the reasoning mind. It insinuates, offers fleeting impressions, persuades more with desire than with reasonableness. In order to tap the soul’s power one has to be conversant with its style, and watchful. The soul’s indications are many but they are usually extremely subtle.”

It’s been one of those fragmented weeks, all right. 


Close your eyes, observe the stored images on your brain screen. A widow in white, emotionally shorn, unseeing, swaying, mourns her husband. Seven girls in silver costumes sway side to side on a long swing, the breeze ruffling their feathers in Adam Smith Square.


A man with watery eyes is unable to get out of bed on J’Ouvert morning, remembering how his son, now dead, would weave in and out of the crowds seeking him, his father, in-between the revelry.


A pretty child with glossy black hair and a rosebud mouth skips home from her Carnival party with a star across her chest. She is a star, she says. Human smoke swirls out of the cinerary, with its garish message for the necessity for humility.


Click on any of those images and you will have to go deep into each one. Sometimes life, when too much living is done, with too much noise and too much talking, goes undigested, unreflected, barely understood, a random assault on the senses.


“We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful. Care of the Soul speaks to the longings we feel and to the symptoms that drive us crazy, but it is not a path away from shadow or death.


“A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted, and shaped by pain and pleasure, success and failure. Life lived soulfully is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. Dropping the salvational fantasy frees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance.”


There is a breeze of jasmine and mud reminding you of the world outside, of the complexity and variety in each human life, as well of the commonality of billions of people everywhere, of births, deaths, marriages, loves, wars and ambitions.


Frustrating to be denied access to these real lives that hold within them the secrets of the universe, to know too much about things and events.


Frustrating to have a window into the events of the world through the computer, with its glut of universal information: clogging the soul, trivialising and sanitising tragedy, mingling train crashes with celebrity divorces.


How can the modern human being mourn for earthquakes in India and El Salvador, go on to feel for those who died in the train crash? No wonder we read the information clinically, go on to entertainment news and shut down. At least story-telling, unrelated as it was to real time, had a purpose, a moral. News for news sake is simply clutter.

Read on.


“The soul lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness and that its instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination.”


What is it about Carnival that creates so much expectancy, so much heightened emotion? It is primal. It’s when people put on masks and become real. With their plumage and bare skin they openly demonstrate the human longing for applause, for freedom from societal constraint, for an atavistic connection with themselves, and the celebration of human imagination. It puts them in touch with their souls.

Don’t think. Eyes back on “Care of the Soul.”


“Care of the soul isn’t about curing, fixing, changing, adjusting or making healthy, and it isn’t about some idea of perfection or even improvement. It doesn’t look to the future for an ideal, trouble-free existence. Rather, it remains patiently in the present, close to life as it presents itself day by day.”


The brain receives seemingly discordant signals zagging against one another like crashing trains, that it is unable to process it all and make sense of it. Hidden among the fragments of the carnage and the celebrity, the drunken nights and the dance, the mourning and the innocent skipping of moving stars, is the soul’s own pattern all the more compelling because it plays hide and seek with us, now giving us a glimpse into its fullness, now showing us disconnected frames. Better to leave it alone and let it fragment, let it ferment, let it breakaway.


The soul has its own rhythm, and requires you to descend into the underworld of death and madness, and from it comes the nugget of life, the gold in the sludge.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur