Care of the Soul


The last time I ventured into a Half Price Books store, I purchased Thomas Moore's 1992 book Care of the Soul. I'll be frank and say that I did not know anything about either Moore or this book. I simply purchased this book because it was located in the psychology section and had soul in the title. Moore wanted this book to be “a program for bringing soul back into life” (xiv). Moore attempted to do this by showing how people can care for the soul (for both individuals and the world) by examining different everyday elements of human existence, including love, depression, and money.

On the surface, the connection to everyday life seems to make Moore's work relevant to the average reader. Many people often deal with the same issues Moore covered in Care of the Soul. My issue with this is that it made the book wordy and laborious to read. Perhaps this is the influence of reading Thich Nhat Hanh's many works on mindfulness. Hanh not only covered much of what Moore wrote about in Care of the Soul, he also made it simple to read. To care for one's soul is to engage mindfully in everything a person encounters. When you mindfully engage something, you are looking deeply into that thing's soul. I think a better way to teach someone how to care for their soul is to educate them about mindfulness. After doing that, one can then connect it to everyday situations. This technique is far simpler than the wordy procedures and methods brought forth by Moore in this book.

This is not to say Care of the Soul lacks any good insights. After suffering through Moore's numerous references to Greek mythology (a topic that puts me to sleep in a similar fashion as when I read about economics), I found his ideas about wholeness to be striking. This wholeness involves removing the divisions within our being and respecting all facets of our soul, no matter how objectionable they may seem.

Here is an example of thinking differently about a facet of our soul that one may find objectionable.

Or we might say, “This is an old problem, going back to childhood.” Again, we think of childhood as something to grow out of. It is the cause of all present trouble. If only it had been different! But this rejection of the child is another way to reject oneself and certainly not to care for the soul. That child who is eternally present in our thoughts and drams may be full of weakness and faults, but that is who we are. We are who we are as much because of our gaps and failures as because of our strengths. Besides, the thought that adult problems go back to childhood keeps us in touch with that divinely powerful child and its fertile inferiority. Remember, soul appears most easily in those places where we feel most inferior. (51)

Rather than constantly trying to eliminate the undesirable elements of our soul, we can instead learn to respect and deal with them. Moore said, “Our work in psychology would change remarkably if we thought about it as ongoing care rather than as a quest for a cure” (19). It is about shifting our thoughts from a fix & cure mentality to a respect & care mentality. When we embrace mindfulness, we can then see and care for the soul. Although Moore explained how to do this in Care of the Soul, he did it in a rather convoluted and wordy fashion. I would recommend any of Thich Nhat Hanh's books as a simpler way to understand how to care for the soul.

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