Garden Psalms

Ephphatha — be opened.

Neshama

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What is it that causes us as humans to understand the ocean as something much more than a source of food, as a natural normalcy?

[And the Eternal God] breathed into his nostrils the neshama of life and the adam became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

נשמה‎

“The breath of life.”

I’ve been reading a lot about the universe, lately. I’ve been reading about how gravity affects time, and about fossils, and about evolution theories. Most recently, I started reading more specifically about the theories, speculations, and mysteries around the origins of our species, humans, homo sapiens.

The biblical text:

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground – then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the neshama of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed… to work it and keep it.

Here is our soul, our neshama, and it’s translated as the very breath of the Almighty God.

Whatever your scientific inclinations or religious convictions may be, that’s pretty damn beautiful.

I really, truly love words. I love language and literature and grammar and metaphor and type design and printed text and spoken word. Novels and poems, letters and sentences and sounds. I love how a people’s value system can be reflected in their languages and grammatical patterns.

Today, I spent a majority of the morning and afternoon in the fetal position on my bed resisting a physical manifestation of a mystical womanly sickness – I did not want to remember this day as spent throwing up all over the bathroom before I’d even spent an entire week in my new home – watching Portlandia and reading The Science of God by Gerald L. Schroeder. It’s been a journey, for me, delving into mathematical concepts and chemical compounds that I hadn’t spent one-on-one time with in a year or two, and watching them attempt a dance with biblical text and religious tradition. It’s been an inspiring journey. In Chapter 9, ‘The Origins of Humankind,’ Schroeder begins an extensive – considering the book is called The Science of God and not The Linguistics of the Bible - linguistic study in original Hebrew texts from Genesis, which somehow led me into Deuteronomy, a book deemed, along with the rest of the Torah, “not as important or relevant as the other books unless you’re a theologian, or something” by my subconscious. Although I’ve never really believed that was true, because any and all ancient text provoke more authentic awe than many human accomplishments I’ve encountered.

One of those words was neshama, which I’ve met before in class at Seattle Pacific. That is, our soul. The thing that made adam from adamah (soil) into Adam, the man charged with dominion over the earth, according to the Bible. The thing written to have been breathed from God into the nostrils of adam to create a “communicative spirit,” beyond any Neanderthol or Cro-Magnon. The person you feel yourself to be. The thing telling you that, despite popularized ‘evidence,’ you are more than an animal with a highly evolved intellect.

So what is the soul, if not a physical manifestation of humankind’s superiority? It’s not something we placed inside ourselves, developed to survive, or an app we purchased from our intelligible parents. It’s a choice. It’s our ability to choose yes or no. Not just beneficial or detrimental, not just strong or weak, but our ability to choose good or evil, right or wrong.

“I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed – because ‘Thou mayest,” John Steinbeck wrote in his literary masterpiece (okay, I’m a little enthralled) East of Eden. We’ve lasted this long because in us lies a truth beyond this world.

Perhaps.

Like I said, this is a new place. Geographically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, romantically… I’m in a new place. And I’m excited to be here.

Classes begin soon.

נשמה‎

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