A Few Words on the (Western) Soul


The Heart Chakra (via here)

I have always believed, and actually started my blog with that idea, that the anatomy of the human soul is the same regardless of any superficial cultural differences. There is a general lament for the West having lost the Soul. While I agree that the official public sphere is quite rigid and uninspiring, I think Westerners have been more creative than ever in all spheres of life. Wonderful novels, poetry, paintings and ideas are pouring out, making it virtually impossible to keep up with all that is going on in the realm of creativity. This fervent ferment in the Western soul is just impossible to ignore. Just take a look at the busy blogosphere for example. A spiritual revolution is happening at the grass roots. May the roots blossom into towering trees.

A Few Words on the Soul

By Wislawa Szymborska (Polish poet, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature)

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

it will settle for a while
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.


This photo shows the Moon Compass, a bracelet made of gold, silver and bronze by Alessandro Dari, a master jeweller from Florence. I was lucky to visit his studio last summer. The artist’s inscription says that this compass will always indicate the right way to follow, since you will never know where you are going if you don’t know who you are. Sounds like a beautiful definition of the Soul.

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19 Responses to A Few Words on the (Western) Soul

  1. Gardengypsy says:

    That poem is absolutely stunning. I really need to start reading more work in translation. A lot of what’s currently around in English leaves me cold.


    • We, the Poles, are born poets. I love Szymborska and I see why she would appeal to you. Deceptive simplicity, seeing spirituality in the mundane and deep Cancerian sensitivity, you seem to have that as well. ‘After every war someone’s got to tidy up’ – gotta love that quote. Another one I love is ‘Cat in an Empty Apartment’, you can find it online.


      • Gardengypsy says:

        Poets.org had a few poems to offer, and I now have a collected works on my wishlist for my next book-buying spree. Thank you for this!


  2. Monika this image of the heart chakra is stunning. Thank you for sharing it here. At first glance it conjured up Jewish symbolism with what appears to be a Hebrew letter in the center and the Jewish star embedded in the flower border. I visited to the link but was not able to trace its origin. Regarding your theme, when I contemplate my own ancestry and consider the roots of my friends at home and abroad, along with my fair grasp of world history, there really is no West within a vacuum. Just like Aries without Pisces has not context, the Americas and Europe have no context in the absence of Asia and Africa, etc…..


    • I cannot even begin to describe how fascinated I am by the chakras. I also found the image stunning. Anahata means “unstruck”. “Unstruck Sound”: the place where the spiritual descends into the physical by the power of the “word”, the point of creation. Free from constraint.
      I also share your idea of the interconnectedness of cultures.


  3. forgive my typos on my comment made above. you cannot edit comments on another’s blog and it is late so I am off my game with my typing!


  4. MartsArts Poetrypictures says:

    I like the way Szymborska tries to tell something about ‘soul’ by describing when its not there. This is maybe what we do in general with language. Talking around things without touching them realy, but living with the vague imprints they leave.

    The impression I get from what Szymborska means by the soul is a feeling of harmony and conjunction with yourself and all what us surrounds. She’s right that in our bussy daily lives this is not a state I experience often. You indeed need a deeper rest and certain silence for that. And for me mostly also a more direct connection with nature. For example long walks, or sailing in my small boat on tranquil waters, or going on my skeelers through the Dutch lowlands, are good conditions to meet my soul.

    I agree with you that in the official public sphere in our actual Western culture theres not much space and attention for this kind of soul. (But I do see enough true compassion though in the field of healthcare in which I work).
    Maybe its also a too high ambition to expect this ‘soul’ in daily working and busy live. I would already be wonderfull if we had some more trust and less suspicion in this spheres.

    So what we only can do ourselves is, I think, – with the words of a former winner of the Dutch Idols – to “Keep the soul alive!”.


  5. The Chakra, the poem, the compass, all exquisite – what a delight to find a community of like minded people with their own revelations – wish one had more time to be here forever, alas – though said kind of differently, the poem’s idea of the concept of the soul (West) is really the same as that of the Indian: it is silent, does not interefere with your body-ego comulsions, shares what is good, looks away when distasteful, quietly provides inspiration if you choose to accept it, if not then having done its duty falls silent – so at the best of times when you are worthy you are your soul, at others when you are not so, you are your self with a small s. – thanks,Namaste.


  6. I know what horoscopes you read. 😉 Also, this belongs under your post on the Feminine, but since I’m here — I’ve got a transiting Pluto riding my first house Moon, back and forth and back and forth. Any quick tips or thoughts? I’m actually frightened to look this transit up, I have an idea and something tells me I may be better not knowing if I’m surviving this transit, which I am. So if it’s crazy negative, just tell me to keep going as I am because it will pass. I mean this last bit. And finally, I used two Moreau paintings in a recent post, Part 4 concerning Leftist politics. Kismet.


    • Oh girl, I wish you lots of strength. Well, if you do not become the ultimate Hecate Sorceress and a Great Occultist after this transit, I’ll be damned. You already have a lot of depth as it is. I am going to look at your blog in more detail later in the day with more time, I feel it i really worth it!


      • Hahaha. That’s what I thought. Well, Hecate was always one of my favorites, along with Artemis and Eris, so I guess I’ll decide to be glad of it. I’ve already been through the ringer these last 4 years. Like serious anguish, so things are actually looking up, but in a way that I never would have expected. I know what this transit means…


  7. Monica that poem gave me goosebumps. Thanks for the thoughts. fervent ferment… I love it.


    • I know, she is something else. I once lived in the same city as her (Krakow) and once saw her walk along the street, carrying grocery shopping. No one seemed to recognize her, I said good morning and she gave me this most amazing, present, soulful look. I will never forget it. I hope fervent ferment is correct. 🙂 I am working on a post about astrology, why I do it. Best, Monika


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