Traveling at the Speed of Soul
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
In Piero Ferrucci’s book, The Power of Kindness
, he tells a story about a group of scientists who were carrying out research in a highly remote part of Mexico so inaccessible they would have to go in on foot. The scientists hired a group of local people to help them carry in the equipment. At one point along the trek the entire group of Mexican people, in unison, simply stopped walking without exchanging so much as a word. The scientists were first confused and then frustrated. They were in a hurry! They didn’t have time to waste!
After a few minutes the Mexican people wordlessly started moving again. Only then did one of them offer an explanation: “Because we had been going so fast, we had left our souls behind. We stopped to wait for our souls.”
This brings up so many questions. How do you know when you’ve left your soul behind?
If someone asked me what it means to leave your soul behind, it would make me think about the times when I have betrayed my values or betrayed myself. Tried to be someone other than who I am. Got too caught up in how I look. Hustled for favor. But the interesting thing is when I told this story to a co-worker, she got a look on her face – a wide, open-eyed look on her face -- and said, “I wonder if that’s why I get so anxious? When everything is coming at me and I start to splinter under the stress, maybe my soul is being left behind?”
Now I felt my eyes get wide. Anxiety and me…we have a longstanding relationship.
My co-worker kept going, putting it together. “I think my brain would hear that. If I said, ‘wait a minute, we’re leaving our soul behind,’ I think my brain would get it. It would respond to that.”
While I was thinking about the soul being left behind or leaving your values behind, my co-worker was describing something even more elemental than values. A precursor to values. More of the earth -- a fundamental need for the feel of your feet on the ground and the ability to hold it together, hold your whole self together. In this primal way, maybe anxiety is in some way the disturbing sense of having come unbuttoned from your soul. When that happens, who knows what mayhem may follow. Hence the care this group of Mexicans was taking to keep their souls about them.
Cultural context note with Marwa
We are all working to learn where unconscious bias is surfacing in the phrasing of our words and how we tell stories and the stories we choose to tell. Because this column is about the interaction of two cultures, I asked Marwa Hassanien, our Director of Diversity & Inclusion, to read this and provide her insight. This opportunity became a learning lab, not just for me as the writer but also you as the reader. The manner that people and cultures are being spoken of here is okay. To the best of our ability we are trying to bring forward the fullness and truth of the interactions that have happened without diminishing anyone.
Marwa thought this story is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how language and culture go hand-in-hand. “Literature often serves as a cultural vehicle that we can learn so much from.” Many stories are “culturally bound,” conveying different meanings to different people while also providing some insight into the culture and the history of those using them. We are able to learn a lot about cultures by the images that people from different cultures paint for us through their words and stories. It’s sometimes hard to make that leap from our own cultural center of gravity, which Marwa points out. “We should never be ethnocentric and think that only the meanings we know or the language we use is right or is all that matters.” Understanding this is where we begin to grow in our cultural humility.
A Note on Rocks & Water
Rocks & Water is the same column by a different name to reflect the spirit of this column’s musings about the very elemental nature of our human experience. It will remain every Wednesday pattern because is a great midway day to take a breath and a break. To give our soul a chance to catch up.
Traveling at the speed of soul. There’s something right about that.
This is what it means to be human…