Poets of the Soul
One of the ways lately I have been thinking about spirituality is focused by the phrase, poets of the soul. By itself, the phrase may sound nice, but it does not convey anything special. If I simply used the phrase, poets of the soul, you would not have a clue what I meant by it. So let me unpack it a bit and give it a context and some specific content.
No doubt, most of us would have some idea about poetry. Most of us had exposure to poetry in high school, if not before. Probably some of us would say something like, “exposure, ha, I was forced to read poetry! It is easy at my age to have some regrets about my education. One of my regrets is that I did not take poetry more seriously. I don’t blame the poets or my teachers. I am sure the blame falls squarely on my shoulders. I do not know why I would have claimed, “I don’t like poetry,” but that would have been my claim.
It surely means that I have missed out on a real treasure of wisdom, beauty and truth. It is something I can still do, namely, engage poetry and be open to its formative and spiritual process. Perhaps this is what I am trying to do when I come to the wonderful phrase, poets of the soul.
I am confident it was only when I was learning Greek that the point and power of poetry became clear to me. As odd as it sounds, learning the Greek language prepared me to appreciate poetry. I can’t tell you what day it was, but it was an important day when I learned that the Greek word for poetry was both a verb and a noun. The Greek word, poiema, is close to our English word, poem. The eye-opener for me was to learn this Greek verb is translated “to make.” A poem is something that is made---a work. A poem must be created. A poem is a creation.
Learning this on that day in the Greek classroom set my brain racing. It did not take much to realize the beginning chapters of Genesis are about poetry. God is a creator---God is a poet. The world is God’s poem. I am God’s work of creation. I am God’s poem and so are you! A poem became so much more than a bunch of words that rhyme. A poem became a work of art.
Learning all this led me to see myself and every human being in a two-fold manner. I am both a work of a Poet (God) and I am a poet at work. Let me elaborate by looking at three aspects of what I consider my poetic work. And the work that I am about is the work of soul making---my own soul making. I am a poet of the soul---of my soul.
I have already named the first aspect of this in the language of soul making. A poet is a maker. For too long, I heard about the soul in such a way that people “had” soul. I grew up hearing that we “have” a soul and, then, when we die, the soul goes to heaven. Being a child of a scientific age, that always set uneasily with me. Very early I knew no physician could locate my soul, like that doctor could find my heart or kidneys.
Then I read a piece that made a huge difference. I began to realize that I did not “have” a soul. I “am” a soul. I like the definition of soul that says my soul is the “essence of me.” With this understanding, I am born as a soul. But it is an infant soul. I and others will need to do a great deal of soul making to bring me into the fullness that God desires. In this sense, I have been commissioned by the Holy One to be a poet of my soul.
I find this to be an exciting assignment: make myself a poem. A second word comes to mind to describe the process and the product of this soul making. The product---a poetic soul---will be a soul of majesty. It will be me---a poem of which God will be proud. I will be a soul of majesty. And the soul making process is a majestic process. To see living and my life as one of majesty is pretty profound. It seems deeply spiritual. I like the idea of living majestically.
Finally, if I can pursue this poetry of the soul---soul making---and have it come off well, then I will have participated in a miracle. A miracle is an unusual event (often caused by God). A miracle is an amazing or wondrous achievement or result. This is exactly how I have come to understand the process of poetic making of the soul. I affirm there is a sure role of God’s grace in this poetic process. But I am the poet---the poet of my soul.
Maker, majesty and miracle. Those are poetic ways of understanding the way of spiritual living that I want to embrace. I like being a poet and I really like the idea of soul making as creating a poem---a poem of my soul.