Soul Renovation ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Soul Renovation

The accumulated wisdom of writers throughout the ages runs as follows: At times you will not feel like writing; you must anyway. Since much of my self-image is enmeshed in this masquerade of being a writer, I grit my teeth, hunch limply over my keyboard, and commence.

For some time I’ve wanted to mention this conception I have of the soul. We often lack fitting metaphors for the soul. We write it down as “spirit” or “essence” or “personality” and leave it at that. Occasionally, I think, we should envision things differently. More concretely.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Soul as a House.

Picture, if you will, an old, classically-styled residence, the type that once featured prominently on “Main Street” but has since become a victim of urban sprawl. Today, the shutters hang crooked and the front porch sags. This is the type of house that you purchase in a burst of optimism, start to touch up, then realize what you took for wood grain is really buildup from a dozen paintjobs, and the walls have as much solid timber as a Louisville Slugger.

The example is extreme, but I see our souls in much the same light. We are Someone’s work in progress, requiring years of wholesale renovation. If we had a real estate agent, the best selling point he could muster would be “nice lines.” In other words, we don’t just need minor touchup. Some of us should have been consigned for salvage. Nonetheless, a Builder has signed on, intent on “recapturing” a pristine whole. At times, what exactly he sees worth saving is anyone’s guess.

After a small foundational adjustment has been made, or when the dust settles from a costly addition, I speculate what the blueprints hold, and wonder if this is really all worth it. So many design flaws to rework, the drafty walls and cracks in the ceiling. Wouldn’t it be easier to start from scratch? Apparently, builders are immune to critique from their houses.

Perhaps it’s useful to think of earth as a new housing development zone—but a sector where the “new” residences are actually old ones being refitted; at least for now. What if design flaws remain when the construction period ends? Say the house participates willingly with the draftsman—as much as a house can—but at the end of the time allotted for renovation, the changes are not complete. The house is improved, but not as intended. What then?

This is mere speculation, but I can’t help wondering if the earth-bound patching job is temporary. Say a true demolition job was what was needed all the time? The soul was sanded and reinforced and expanded, but the initial flaws ran deep. Ultimately, will the approach to renovation drastically change?

One day, will “repairs” cease, smiles all round, as a wrecking ball swings through the walls to cries of “At last?” The house will finally be leveled, the foundation ransacked, and then…brick by brick, remade. The house, our soul, us—will be rebuilt, different but the same. Awful architecture erased, good lines brought into the light, there all the time, but unrealized.

If it does happen like this, the final transformation will take place in an instant. The long, slow years of repair will be obliterated in an explosion of violent kindness; we will be reduced to mere material, than rectified with genius perfection—all in a flash. As Paul wrote, “I tell you a mystery…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed” (I Corinthians 15:52, The Bible).

That will be the instant when full soulhood—full humanness, full personality—is realized. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “The Props assist the House…then the Scaffolds drop affirming it a soul.” There comes a time when braces and artificial reinforcement are no longer necessary, and we can support our own weight at last. The place is finally habitable. The Builder strolls in.

For now, we are under construction, persistently incomplete. I, at least, cannot wait for the final razing, and then, the final raising.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife