Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The soul's soul and the trick's trick

'Behind every trick lies a trick!'

Typically, people imagine soul to be a white ghost-like entity that mysteriously enlivens the body and survives the body's demise. Though there's some truth to this notion, overall it's  simplistic and misleading. In fact, soul consists of several layers, each serving as soul for a more external layer.

This concept is not as mysterious as it may initially sound. Actions, for instance, are motivated by emotion. Hugging a friend, for instance, may be motivated by affection; helping a stranger in strife may be motivated by compassion; while raising a fist may be incited by feelings of anger. Emotions are the soul of action. 

However, emotions themselves are guided by intellect. How we frame an event strongly determines our emotional response to it. Furthermore, once emotion has been aroused, intellect guides it to find expression in a refined and meaningful way rather than as a raw and unmitigated impulse. Intellect is soul to emotion.

But what causes one to understand experiences in particular ways? What generates the first thoughts that pop into the mind and largely shape our first impressions of things? This is the subconscious. The subconscious is soul to conscious intellect.

If we observe some of the key terms for 'soul' in Kabbalah literature, we find they relate to the element of air. For example, Ruach denotes wind, and Neshamah denotes breath. Why is soul compared to air?

Compared to the other central elements of fire, water, and earth, air is imperceptible. We live within air and yet are largely unaware of it. Even when we 'see' a strong wind blowing, it's not the air per se that we see, only its effect on denser and more conspicuous objects. Hence, we don't see the air in a tornado, only the debris which surrounds it. Analogously, soul in itself is invisible, its energy is felt only in its influence on the dense and visible body.

Every skateboarding trick also has layers of 'soul', detected only through the concrete actions of a skater's execution of a trick. One level of soul is the skater's knowledge of the correct footing and landing, alongside other information concerning correct technique. These are usually learnt from trick tips or by observing others performing a trick.

However, a deeper, more elusive soul exists. After one practices the explicit details of trick tip instructions many times, one develops a unified sense of how to perform the trick, one which no longer requires conscious thought about how to perform it. It simply flows from the skater in his unique style, his personal rendition of the trick. Though this level of soul is clearly visible in an adept skater's performance, it cannot be communicated through language or grasped through analysis. It is captured only through personal experience, through repeated performance of the trick. This apect of any trick is truly elusive like air. All of an observer's perceptions of it are akin to seeing the debris surrounding a tornado...                             


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