Soul – calibre

Utopia of the blessed from Soul Calibur
Utopia of the blessed from Soul Calibur

“It’s like, imagine all the atoms in your hand… billions of them… they all have to move together to make it do this.” He wriggled his hand. “They don’t know why they are doing it …”

My mind turned back the clock a couple of decades to a room full of boys; young teenagers who, for some reason best known to themselves, had switched off the videogames and were debating the nature of existence. At that time, my home was always full of teenagers and that was fine by me. I seldom knew how many I would be feeding come mealtimes and the baking I did most days generally disappeared before it had a chance to cool. On this particular day, having reached the limit of their speculations, I had been called in as ‘expert opinion’. Apparently, my sons’ friends all knew I was ‘weird’.

They had been wondering about atoms that day too and debating if each one was a world or a galaxy, or even a universe… and if so, was there life on them… far too small for us to ever know… and if there was, was it sentient… and being so small, was a second of our time a whole galactic evolution to them? And was it therefore possible that our own universe was no more than perhaps a single atom in the bacteria upon the face of God?

And they thought I was weird?

And perhaps, chimed in one of them, if thought is electrical in nature, and therefore moves atoms and stuff around, were we just a thought in the mind of a being so vast that to us it would be a god?

So, did we even exist?

Or was God simply dreaming us?

And if we were a thought or a dream, yet were capable of consciousness, leading independent lives, and seeing civilisations come and go… what were the implications for our own dreams and thoughts? How much life was potentially in them?

And if there was life in them… were we as gods to our dreams?

And if our universe was no more than bacteria, what happened if, say, God blew his nose and we were separated from our host…? They were teenage boys after all… I was just waiting for one of them to use it as an excuse for not washing the bacteria off their own skins…

And what happened to stuff anyway? Where did the atoms go when something was destroyed…. And was anything ever really destroyed anyway?

And if we were part of some vast being, did what we do matter? Was it part of the life and learning of something we call god? I remember being inordinately proud of the lot of them. They had chosen to stop killing each other on Soul Calibur in order to look instead at the calibre of the soul.

I resisted the urge to simply answer ’42’ and gingerly cleared a space amid the detritus and sat down, promising myself that while they were at school the next day, I would potentially destroy a few universes with disinfectant … This was clearly going to take a while. So was the cleaning…

We covered a lot of ground that day.

Not for the first, nor the last, time, I sent up a silent thank you for my own less-than-orthodox upbringing that had covered so much and encouraged such questioning as I sat down to a debate I will not forget; one of surprising depth from minds so young and backgrounds so diverse.

They had all been open to exploring their view of reality, and of the world… a view imposed by their cultural and social backgrounds. These were minds open to new ideas, and I found that both exciting and encouraging, remembering that it would be these boys who fathered yet another generation of children one day and, hopefully, would raise them in this spirit of openness. If so, I was sitting in a room filled with hope.

Comfort zone…

Image: Pixabay

I felt a tad fragile and the thought of sitting in front of a bright computer screen had no appeal at all. I could have done the ironing, I suppose, but there was no hurry. I could have cuddled the dog and done nothing… which I did for a while; doing nothing can be the most productive way of spending your time. But eventually, I started to fidget. I turned to an old, familiar friendship and picked up a book.

It was not one of the many interesting books still waiting to be read, their pristine pages silently urging me to explore their secrets. No, it was a book that is falling apart from having been read by several generations of my family over the past forty years. A book I have read so many times before that it held no surprises at all, apart from the fact that, for the very first time, I was obliged to don my reading glasses.

It was just a light read, pure fiction, where the only depth is in the author’s knowledge and passion for her subject. But it was familiar… comfort food for the mind… and perfect to read when feeling the after effects of a three-day migraine. The dog curled up and snored quietly on my feet, the garden doors stood open as the rain fell and the temperature dropped, and I snuggled down with a cuppa, some hot, buttered toast and a big fluffy dressing gown to indulge in a medicinal dose of familiarity.

We need that comfortable familiarity sometimes. It can be healing, reassuring and all that is required to set us to rights. Whether it is the hearty, wholesome food of childhood that brings back warm memories, the encouragement of a familiar smile or a story we know so well that we can conjure its landscape with as much ease as if we were stepping into a wardrobe. It gives us a place of physical and emotional security that wraps around us like a blanket round a babe and keeps us safe. There are no challenges, no surprises, just things we know and love.

When we are warm and cosy, we do not want to move. Waking without an alarm in what is always the most comfortable bed in the world at that moment, there is a time in which we simply do not move. It may last no more than seconds, or we may turn over and go back to sleep, but while it lasts, all is well with the world. We have no desire at all to leave the warmth behind, step into a frozen morning and face the requirements of the day.

Minds work the same way as bodies. They like familiarity. The patterns of habit obviate the need to expend energy. There is no challenge… we can function on auto-pilot as long as we stick to what we know well. Ask our minds to do or try something new and unfamiliar and they will either jump at the adventure or go into siege mode, digging themselves ever deeper into the duvet of entrenched perspectives from which only the most determined assault will dislodge them. Like a body that refuses to leave the sofa, book and cake, such unmoving, persistent entrenchment will only end in a loss of flexibility and a heaviness of spirit.

There is nothing at all wrong with being comfortable in mind, heart or body… on the contrary; contentment and comfort go hand in hand. But that only works well when we are open to other experiences than those within our bubble of familiarity. When choosing to ‘snuggle down’ for a while is a choice and not our default position. If I read only the books I know by heart, I would never learn anything new. If I walked only familiar paths, I would never see a different horizon. If my mind were closed to opinions and beliefs other than those I hold, my own would never evolve and grow… and neither would I.

Step outside the comfort-zone and the world is an unfamiliar place, where challenges, fears and adventures await… often in the very same place. Accept the challenge, face the fear and embrace the adventure. We will always have a comfort-zone, but the adventure may not wait.