November 28, 2023

“Advanced Soul”


Chances were moderately good that had the meeting of the Doodlebug Philosophical Society ended right after it began–or at least soon after the majority of participants agreed that of all living persons having any possible claim they represented a select group of advanced souls–everyone would have gone home highly content with himself and his fellow man, satisfied that the earth is in proper orbit, and the Creator, their only superior, secure upon His throne. But it didn’t end quickly enough.

Burwood Fernbaum, apparently not content with the high-level abstraction which assured his membership and that of other society members, asked what he perceived to be an innocuous question, “What exactly could be understood to describe an ‘advanced soul’?”

Then all hell broke loose.

Now, freighted as we all are with labels of infinite variety, none of us is in a position to criticize his neighbor-that is, past that neighbor’s willingness to suffer ridicule at our hands. We are thus-and-so denomination, political party, lodge member, occupation, social or service club, alumnus or a host of other things. And, of course, we describe ourselves as saints, sinners, consumers, critics, husbands, wives, ad infinitum. It’s when we quantify the latter or define the former that the opportunity for nuclear war becomes an easily reached possibility and the probability fairly certain. For since people are not simply born clone-like, it could be argued, for example, they quit making Methodists right after they made the first one; this would make all others approximations. Identifying the correctly attuned member becomes as difficult as selecting the most far-reaching conservative from among those who cherish the label.

Several of those present thought the words “advanced soul” implied multiple incarnations, each of which was an expansion of the one prior and all resulting in a wisdom borne of experience. Each rather thought this to be an apt expression of his or her own personal situation although not with the untrammeled support of other members. “If you’re an example, Jimmy Snee, then Darwin was wrong!” said Jake Mannen, heatedly. “And that goes for the rest of you.”

Perfection, it seems, is a description better reserved for those not closely related or living in proximity. A good many thought an “advanced soul” to be one able to rise above politics, religion and other versions of collective alliances. But where a truly able, astute, discerning man or woman might prove a viable test case for this hypothesis, those members who volunteered their lives for close scrutiny in defense of such a theory proved to be poor candidates. They were, without exception, known partisans of one or more self-serving causes, idiotic to all, save themselves.

More to lighten the oppressive nature of things, I suggested that an advanced soul was undoubtedly someone who had outgrown the need for rhymed poetry and held no tolerance whatever for that coined by cowboys. But this proved to be about as humorous as a sore toe! I was reminded that people like Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare wrote quite a lot of poetry built around one rhyme scheme or another, and that the world seemed to think rather highly of them and their poetry, even to according them “advanced soul” status.

I tell you, these people were as seriously intent on finding a suitable answer to Burwood’s question as George Bush trying to find a legitimate reason he took us to war in Iraq! Grace Perkins broke the silence.

“Yes, well, your attempt at humor tells us more about you than it does the problem. I rather think an advanced soul resides in those who devote their time and effort to helping others, even if that includes the poetry with which they intend to soften the world or make it understandable.”

Ignoring the opportunity for group agreement, Dixie Muggin spoke up. “I don’t see a world filled with inane metaphors, forced rhyme and fancy allusions as being softened nor made more understandable. It’s obfuscating claptrap. Is the world better for Milton’s Paradise Lost? I don’t think so!”

The evening was filled with hyperbole, syllogistic reasoning and fallacy; and no one went home wiser, or for that matter as close to the “advanced soul” status of which each was assured when the meeting was young. Chairman Herm Clenchman promised to bring up the subject again if our busy schedule will allow–probably right after congress is thought to qualify!

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