Here’s a story that I’ve been thinking about lately, something that happened to me about…20 years ago. Nothing gory or spectacular, just a subtle thing. A conversation I had with a former boss, something that most people would have forgotten. I still think about the implications of that conversation.
This particular boss seemed like a pretty amiable sort of person. Younger Baby Boomer, very creative, middle-class upbringing, had a family of his own, and shared many of the same common cultural touchstones as our peers.
One day we were talking, and I said something like, “you have to do something that feels right for your soul.” Well, this apparently stopped the conversation dead—he just stopped and looked at me with confusion and disgust. “What did you say?”
“You’re not going crazy on me, are you? Talking about this ‘soul’ stuff?”
And he wasn’t kidding. I had used, somewhat innocently, the term “soul.” This obviously upset him. He explained to me that it was common knowledge that souls were just imaginary stuff like Santa Claus. He wanted to know if I was some sort of religious freak, or had lost my mind.
This really shocked me. I didn’t consider myself to be, at that time, a super-religious person, especially in terms of mainstream religion. I thought that believing we had some sort of spirit or soul—some undefinable thing that might carry on after we die—was normal. And that was a HUUUUUUUUUUGE mistake on my part, assuming this.
Now, it wasn’t that my boss identified himself as an atheist. An atheist who has thought long and hard on their part of view often develops a sense that they need to do good for others here and now on Earth—because they believe that this is all there is. They sometimes develop a mission regarding helping humankind in immediately tangible ways. They sometimes see religion as something that keeps people ignorant and ultimately hurts them; I may not 100% agree with them on all their views, but I know they at least have some sort of beliefs and ethical system and capacity for empathy. A number of them are volunteers and philanthropists.
But my boss—and, as it turned out, a disconcerting # of my peers—didn’t quite have that sense of ethics and empathy. I don’t think they thought such topics were even necessary to waste any time thinking about. They didn’t believe in souls or Spirit or any type of creator or any type of… “evolved” sense of ethics. They often devolved into this mindset of “might makes right,” survival of the fittest. Obviously, anybody who was considered not part of the “ruling class” was considered a target for various abuses and exploitations; abuses and exploitations that were considered “normal” and without reason for appeal.
As “modern”—and hip—as they seemed to be, they paradoxically had this point of view of life that I just found very very primitive. They also expressed what I call the “Save the King” instinct, in which no matter how bad the people in power (those perceived to be the “patriarchs” or in the “ruling class”) were, they had to be defended at all costs, no matter what; because to a primitive, instinctual mind, if the “king” falls, so might the entire colony.
Education was derided. Materialism was lauded. And etc. That particular boss never did anything to me personally, but there was an unusual amount of malfeasance and exploitation in that general environment.
I had another boss at that company—one who did do shitty things to me—who told me his idea of life, literally that “good people” were “suckers” and only the mean and nasty survive. Very, very, very ugly view of the world. Ultimately shared by a whole core of these peers. Some of the worst of the lot were consistently promoted, and some of the best were consistently either quitting or getting pushed out.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I need to admit some spiritual truths to myself—not to convince others I’m “right,” or to even necessarily broadcast those truths to the world, but just accept them for myself.
And there was definitely a link between how upset my boss was over me using the word “soul” and that toxic environment.
“Soul” didn’t necessarily mean to my boss religion or metaphysics or even believing in any sort of afterlife. Rather, it meant…the idea that there was something “more” than simply survival of the fittest and might makes right.
It wasn’t a matter of religion. It was a matter of evolution.
Anyway…for a long time after the whole of my experiences, I felt too shy to do several things:
a) Talk about “souls” or any other even remotely spiritual topic unless specifically with spiritual people.
b) Show too much “softness” or goodness, because obviously “good people are suckers” and mean people are successes.
c) Really, just seem ethically conscientious or sensitive or intuitive or “too smart” anything that might mark me as “weird” and “ripe” for getting the “might makes right” and “save the king/save the colony” crowd down on me.
But here’s the thing…
I honestly believe humans are meant to evolve. I honestly believe that in this lifetime, we are meant to learn things and help other people; and we are not “suckers” for wanting to do that, no matter how many examples of shitty people in power we are shown.
There is something more than all this. There is a soul, or an “essence,” or something that is precious about human beings; but I also think you can be so neglectful towards this essence, so counter to its nature, that it eventually goes “bye-bye.”
And while I realize that even to write about this topic does make me seem weird (isn’t there a Kardashian show I should be watching instead?), I’m not the only person who feels this way. There are a bunch of us, and we can’t “blow it” in this lifetime just because some morons try to “shame” us into it & drag us down into that pit.