I believe that “souls” are our lucid connection with and awareness of our surroundings. We are born with a finite number of moments of consciousness. Anything that squanders that–even momentarily–ekes away at our soul.
This belief is what turns me from the quintessential, stereotypical New York liberal–an atheist, evolutionist; a pro-choice, gay-rights, card-carrying ACLU humanist; a Big Government spending, semi-Socialist; and an East Coast quasi -“intellectual elitist”–into a prissy, Victorian bluestocking, teetotaling pantywaist.
I am the person who in restaurants announces to waiters–complete strangers who probably couldn’t care less–that “I don’t drink alcohol.” Alcohol may not kill brain cells, but it does damage your dendrites. The “French Paradox” diet wards off heart disease, but wine makes my cheeks go numb and my head fuzzy. One beer makes me a flushed-faced idiot.
To me, being wasted means something far worse than a frat house bender. It means throwing away part of your limited allotment of conscious awareness of life. The enjoyment in being “blitzed,” or “blasted, “shit-faced” or “snockered,” “tanked,” or even “tipsy” is bizarre to me—like someone speaking a strange, obscure language like Urdu or Esperanto. The difference is that if I DID meet someone who was learning those languages, I would not be turned off; I would be intrigued and would want to learn more.
The only thing I inhale is information. Fifty or more books a year–Heaven! The entire New York Times every Sunday at Dunkin’ Donuts—a ritual! An intense inquiry into interesting people–Pure bliss! Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, Teddy Roosevelt, and Charles Darwin have all in turn unfolded in ever-fascinating breadth of detail, supplying endless surprises. It’s funny that for a woman who met her husband at a feminist march and whose wedding colors were those of the Equal Rights Amendment that none of those captivating biographical subjects has been female.
It’s not just piling up a store of data that I value. Like Cervantes, I believe that “trifles make the sum of life.” These small pieces of our soul propel our existence forward. Planting numerous flats of flowers–in an annual, unique color scheme–every spring. The movies with my husband every Friday night or Saturday afternoon without fail–from dreadful duds to Academy Award winners. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream every summer—at the factory! My perfect Fettucine Alfredo that I “brag on.” Audio books in my ear, NPR in my car, Broadway cast recordings in my CD while sewing curtains. The smell of boxwood. Jigsaw puzzles. Taco Bell.
Nothing can, in my mind, compare with connecting with this heaven on earth: the peak moments of my personal history. Marching in protests in Washington, D.C. Anticipating the “magic time” just as the lights go down in live theater. Spilling out into Times Square in a post-Broadway-musical throng of people. Standing in the Jacuzzi of a waterfall at Foster’s swimming hole in Stowe. Sitting in a fleeting train, looking at the vertical orange expanse of Ruby Canyon in Utah. Seeing my sons’ faces for the first time. All of these are sublime. All deserve full-frontal awareness.
Our consciousness is life. Our consciousness is our soul.