Soul According to Tom Robbins

– Semi-alert readers of this blog will have noticed that I haven’t been posting much of late. My wife’s off in New Zealand so I’ve been covering for her here at our business and I can tell you that Joni Mitchell was right – you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

– But, today a friend sent me a piece she dug up from somewhere way back in 1993 and, damn, it was good – so I’m just going to have to set aside making a living for a few minutes and Blog it.

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You gotta have soul
By Tom Robbins

Mental Bungee-jumping may not be your sport of choice, but there’s a cerebral ledge that sooner or later each of us has to leap off. One day, ready or not, we glance in a mirror, cuddle an infant, attend a funeral, walk in the woods, partake of a substance Nancy Reagan warned us to eschew, chance a liaison, wake in the night with a napalm lobster in our chest, read a message from the pope or the Dalai Lama, get lost in Verdi or lost in the stars – and wind up thinking about our soul.

Yes, the soul. You know what I mean.

Popular culture to the contrary, the soul is not an overweight nightclub singer having an unhappy love affair in Detroit. Nor, on the other hand, is it some pale vapor wafting off a bucket of metaphysical dry ice. Suffering, low-down and funky, seasons the soul, it’s true, but bliss is the yeast that makes it rise. And yet, because the soul is linked to the earth (as opposed to spirit, which is linked to the sky), it steadfastly contradicts those who imagine it a billow of sacred flatulence or a shimmer of personal swamp gas.

Soul is not even that Cracker Jack prize that God and Satan scuffle over after the worms have all licked our bones. That’s why, when we ponder – as, sooner or later, each of us must – what exactly we ought to be doing about our souls, religion is the wrong, if conventional place to turn.

Religion is little more than a transaction in which troubled people trade their souls for temporary and wholly illusionary psychological comfort (the old “give it up in order to save it” routine). Religions lead us to believe the soul is the ultimate family jewel, and, in return for our mindless obedience, they can secure it for us in their vaults, or at least insure it against fire and theft. They are mistaken.

If you need to visualize the soul, think of it as a cross between a wolf howl, a photon, and a dribble of dark molasses. But what it really is, as near as I can tell, is a packet of information. It’s a program, a piece of hyperspatial software designed explicitly to interface with the Mystery. Not a mystery, mind you, the Mystery. The one that can never be solved.

To one degree or another, everybody is connected to the Mystery, and everybody secretly yearns to expand the connection. That requires expanding the soul. These things can enlarge the soul: laughter, danger, imagination, meditation, wild nature, passion, compassion, psychedelics, beauty, iconoclasm, and driving around in the rain with the top down. These things can diminish it: fear, bitterness, blandness, trendiness, egotism, violence, corruption, ignorance, grasping, shining, and eating ketchup on cottage cheese.

Data in our psychic program is often nonlinear, nonhierarchical, archaic, alive, and teeming with paradox. Simply booting up is a challenge, if not for no other reason than that most of us find acknowledging the unknowable and monitoring its intrusions upon the familiar and mundane more than a little embarrassing.

But say you’ve inflated your soul to the size of a beach ball and it’s soaking into the Mystery like wine into a mattress. What have you accomplished? Well, long term, you may have prepared yourself for a successful metamorphosis, an almost inconceivable transformation to be precipitated by your death or by some great worldwide eschatological whoopjamboreehoo. You may have. No one can say for sure.

More immediately, by waxing soulful you will have granted yourself the possibility of ecstatic participation in what the ancients considered a divinely animated universe. And on a day to day basis, folks, it doesn’t get any better than that.

By Tom Robbins Esquire, October, 1993=

– Research thanks big-time to Lisa G.

– I don’t know if the signature at the end indicates that Tom Robbins was a lawyer or that he was writing for Esquire Magazine. I’m not even sure if he’s the same fellow who wrote, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. And, I guess I don’t care. It’s just too good a piece not to put out there.

– This, by the way, is post number 1000 on this Blog and that’s got to count for something (now, if I only knew what). 

6 Responses to “Soul According to Tom Robbins”

  1. pookie says:

    And then there’s what Bart Simpson said about the subject:

    “There’s no such thing as a soul. It’s just something they made up to scare kids, like the boogeyman or Michael Jackson.”

  2. auntiegrav says:

    Anytime someone says, “It’s the question that cannot be answered.” it means they are selling something to you that doesn’t exist. I am a genius. In the words of my friend, “a f…king genius”. There are NO paradoxes in the real universe, only our misunderstandings and imaginary theories about what is going on. The idea of a ‘soul’ is a paradox. God is a paradox. I’m not saying that some energy-based pattern of usefulness cannot exist in the universe, just that it cannot be what we hope it is. If there is a heaven where our patterns go, and there is some ‘switch’ we have to hit to get there, then anyone can get there, and the most important lesson from life is learning to live with other people’s faults:”forgive those who trespass against us”, because you won’t be going to heaven just with the people you want, but with anyone and everyone who figures out the magic switch. Most likely, we just stop, but our brains are wired to ‘believe’ things, like that there may be a tiger hiding in the tall grass. Believing something is there that is not is a survival trait. Not believing in something that IS there is not. The real question about ourselves is “What are people FOR?” (see Wendell Berry) I think humans have at least the same amount of ‘purpose’ as any living thing: to create future usefulness over and above what we consume in resources. Our brains give us great power over other life, but with that power comes great responsibility if we are to pretend that we are actually ‘thinkers’ and not just ‘reactionaries’ to the environment and our emotions. So far, I have only seen the latter as a general rule. Humanity sold its soul for comfortable thoughts, as your example of religion illustrates.

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  4. Lion Goodman says:

    This was published in Esquire Magazine. It’s one of my favorite Tom Robbins pieces, and I’m glad to have found it again compliments of Google.

  5. Gus Hubbard says:

    I think this very probably is Tom Robbins of Cowgirls fame. The style suggests it and he did have theological training. As for the soul, I think this comes in the category of ‘don’t ask’.

  6. 13nowhere says:

    the wind is a rock
    and darkness is a powder.
    fire is fire.
    the soul is a glass eye rolling in the dirt.
    the soul is hairy angel egg.