Archive for the ‘Christians’ Category

Through Faith and Patience

May 16, 2020

I would like to remind my fellow-Christians, we serve  a Savior who did not insist, nor fight for, nor allow his right-hand man to fight for, his constitutional rights.

Rather, he bore the punishment of a cruel civil .gov backed up by a band of religious zealots.

Jesus Christ did not argue with Herod, nor Pilate, nor Caiaphas. He already knew that his ultimate victory was assured, because. . . while allowing their bloody conspiracy to totally defeat his body, they were unknowingly setting the historical stage for the greatest human victory of all time—our triumph over death itself.

His world-class demonstration of how to prevail over adversity advances the purposes of God on this earth.

He did not nit-pick about his right to gather on Sunday or maintain any semblance of religion. In fact, on one occasion he ran the religious folks out of their temple.

He was telling them to get their priorities straight.

His most ardent spokesman later reminded us, through a written legacy, that  faith and patience would be the basis of our inheritance.

Not the promises of man . . . nor our legal right to get together on any particular day and play church. while the rest of the world is engaged in a life/death struggle.

We now have in the world a life-and-death situation that will ultimately demonstrate, like Jesus’s own ordeal, the power of our God to deliver us from evil, amen.

So let’s not cloud the issue by trying to split hairs over traditional religious whoodoos like what they think about what we can or not do on Sunday.

They cannot defeat us. 

They can’t defeat the ongoing presence the risen Messiah in this world. His greatest life-affirming act was remaining obedient unto death . . . a death that erupted as Resurrection and changed the world forever. He was a man unjustly executed, but then he lived to tell about it.

ChristCruc

And get this: they will never defeat his followers.

His victory was a world-changing event that greatly outweighs our power to quibble over freedom of assembly issues during a life-threatening pandemic.

My dear brothers and sisters, they cannot beat us. That’s been tried already, multiple times through multiple ages.

But they can still join us.

You can’t beat down a man who survives death.

King of Soul

I’m Convinced

April 12, 2020

There’s a lot be said, and much to be written, about how we got here, where we are headed, what we will endure, what we will enjoy, and why it all happens.

Of all the sages and great men and great women throughout the ages, I do  not know of one whose claim to truth—whose claim to know what he is talking about, and what our purpose is here— I do not know of one whose accomplishment can be more convincing than the prophet  who rose from the dead. There is not one man nor woman whose wisdom or feats can match  this one miraculous labor of love:

Being tortured to death, rising from death back into life, and then living to tell about it.

There is no treatise on truth, no explanation of existence nor spoken lecture on the meaning (or absence thereof) of life. There is no heroic feat, no dramatic rescue, no profound work of art—that can match or exceed personal victory over death itself.

So I’m going with the one who survived death: Jesus.

I’m not the only one. Take a look at history and you will see how many men, women and children have, over two thousand years, cast their lot in his direction.

Believe it, or not.

If you can’t agree with me now, just recall this testimony when you are, let’s say, one hour or one minute from your death. At that moment, consider carefully whether you will truly want to  reject the rescuing hand that is extended to you just after crossing . . .

Better yet: believe me now, that. . . that hand is gesturing for you now, because the gift of eternal life through faith is even more precious–and more lovingly beneficial to others– when it comes into full use during this present life of trouble, trial, and triumph.

EmptyTomb

King of Soul  

The SwanSwoon of our Era

March 21, 2020

In her recent article at Social Europe,  Indian economist Jayeti Ghosh  accurately identifies a major consequence of our worldwide collective anti-COVID restrictions:

  “Supply chains are being disrupted, factories are being closed, entire regions are being locked down and a growing number of workers are struggling to secure their livelihoods. “

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-covid-19-debt-deluge

Her statement does indeed identify the crux of our economic problem right now, and the global complexity does unleash trouble on a very large, international scale.

You might say this COVID-crash is the “Crash of ’29” of our era.

Some compare this tsunami to the crash of ’08, or the blah-blah of ’87 (whatever that was.)  But it seems to me this thing is unwinding as an event historically more far-reaching than those two economic downfalls. This Covid thing can be compared to  what happened in 1929.

The Crash of ’29 exposed the vulnerability of a newly-Industrialized USA. This present Covid-crash exposes the vulnerability of a newly-Internetted World.

Ms. Ghosh is correct in her observation when she writes:

  “Today’s financial fragility far predates the Covid-19 ‘black swan’.”

The black swan represents the unlikely possibility that something like this could happen . . . . even though it did.

It seems to me the immensity of our present global Covid co-morbidity is indeed directly related to our newfound world connectivity in trade, travel and talk. The black swan in the background represents this unprecedented development in world history.

Swans

In that same technocratic network to which Ms. Ghosh contributes, Social Europe, Karin Pettersson posts her insightful analysis of our Covid conundrum, which includes this accurate assessment:

   “Already however, we know this: this type of disease cannot be efficiently fought at an individual level, but only as a society. It requires preparation, co-ordination, planning and the ability to make rapid decisions and scale up efforts. A strong state.

But nor is government enough. The situation demands personal responsibility, a sense of duty, concern for one’s neighbour. “

     https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-corona-crisis-will-define-our-era

What she writes there is so true. I agree.

Karin goes on to pose  a question that is surely the crux of the problem for millions of earth-inhabiting workers:

   “Yet what will you do if you simply cannot afford to stay at home?”

And I’m thinking . . . because of this widespread affordability problem, the response of governments and corporations in the days ahead should reflect benevolence, not authoritarian oppression. At least I hope it will.

Karin Pettersson also presents this profound thought:  

   “I wonder if young people might come to think that authoritarian China dealt with the crisis better than the US—the land of the free.”

We shall witness, in the days ahead, how this dilemma is dealt with between China, USA, and all the other nations of this planet.

Karin’s bright insight becomes dimmed, however, when she criticizes, in the same article cited above, Vice President Mike Pence’s public act of leading scientists in prayer.

She is displeased that Pence, a former Indiana governor, had cut funding for HIV-virus research and prevention, back in the day. . .

I can understand Ms. Petterssen’s emphatic let’s fix this humanism. It is quite the de rigeur among technocrat intelligencia who would like to run the world, because they could certainly do a more equitable and better job than all those corporate 1%ers whose rabid profit-taking shenanigans have now made such a mess of things.

 Yes, Virginia, the news is bad. Read ’em and weep. . . but act, benevolently. That also  goes for all you 1%ers out there who think you’re in charge of things.

But I also like to remember, and take seriously, a statement that I heard, many years ago, from a fellow who was then what I now am, an ole geezer.

  “What we need now is some damn prayer!”

So Let’s all work together harmoniously to get these problems solved. And remember that a little help from the OneWhoIs could only render our burdens a little easier to bear.

Glass half-Full

What is Fulfillment?

February 6, 2020

Isaiah set the stage for fulfillment thousands of years ago . . .

Isaiah

Among many other attributes, fulfillment means the Old . . .

IsOldJerus

. . . giving rise to the new:

Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;

your sons come from afar,

    and your daughters are carried on the hip.

IsShineCity

Other visionaries catch a glimpse along the way . . .

Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

EzekielYadV

But the process is indeed a long one, requiring very burdensome periods of human history. Inevitably, and predictably, the going is tough.

But our Creator has a scenario set up where adversity brings forth endurance in the worst conditions, and creativity to produce tangible evidence of forward progress. The striving to fulfill any great, worthwhile endeavor is arduous and prolonged. It is not given to any one generation to construct; nor is it given to any one people-group to fulfill.

Fulfillment of  prophecy and human destiny is distributed  over many generations of people and time.

IsStairway

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

IsDamascusGat

Glass half-Full

A World-class Sacred Mountain

February 4, 2020

About 27 centuries ago, the Jewish prophet Isaiah urged his people to live righteously, according to the laws that God had delivered earlier to the prophet, Moses.

By his use of predictive prophecy, Isaiah reinforced his exhortations toward the necessity  of holy living. As his biblical message has been brought down to us through history–even to this day–actual fulfillments of Isaiah’s predictions lent credence to the legitimacy of his message.

Consider this prediction:

“And it shall be at the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it.”

This prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled repeatedly for many centuries, and continues to be actualized every day of our 21st-century life.

In a steady stream of faces and pilgrims of all types, people from all over the world visit “the mountain of the Lord’s house” in Jerusalem.

Every day.

IsPlaza

In this large flat area, Jews from all over the world congregate to pray at their open-air synagogue, the Kotel, which is an ancient wall that retains the side of the mountain where their temple had stood in ancient times.

Christians also visit this site in great numbers. We  are welcomed every day by the Jewish people. Most Christians stroll through, gathering faithful inspiration, on their way to their own holy site nearby, in the Christian quarter of the Old City . . .

IsHSscene

where Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago, and laid in a sepulchre, before rising from the dead on the third day after his death.

In my photo below. . .

IsPlaza1

. . .  notice the long ramp that connects the ground-level plaza to a higher location at the top of the wall. Through this stairway, the Muslims allow some visitors access, at certain times of the day, to their holy site, al-Haram al-Sharif, which happens to be the same location as the ancient Jewish temple. The Muslim shrine there, built in 692 c.e., is  known by us Christians as the Dome of the Rock. Believers of all three faiths— Jewish, Muslim and Christian— believe Abraham was led by the Eternal One up onto that high spot with his son.

In that world-famous episode, God revealed his will about ritual sacrifice; the Lord Himself provided an animal for Abraham to offer instead of his son. Muslims believe that the son was Ishmael. Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac. Whatever you believe about it, suffice it to say that the Eternal One thereby clarified once and for all: his call for sacrifice did not include any human victim.

A Christian rendering of that event is painted on a wall inside the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

IsSepcIsac

This clarification from God about the offering of sacrifice took place on the mountain–called Mt. Moriah by Jews–and called al-Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.

In our day and time, some visitors are more fortunate in the timing of their pilgrimage. At certain times of the day,  the Islamic-administered mountaintop is opened to visitors from other faiths. Christians and others may walk up the wooden-covered stairway to gain a limited access to the sacred mountaintop. Up there, they are allowed a brief access to Islam’s third-holiest site. They can amble for a while, to get a closer view of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. They can also stroll around and get a panoramic view of Jerusalem, from Mt. Scopus, toward the northeast, to Mt. Zion at the westward view.

After a brief time, they will be conducted away, back to their own quarters, by Islamic devotees, so that the followers of Mohammed may express their devotion to Allah among an exclusive gathering of the faithful.

Infidels who do not subscribe to Mohammed’s revelation are thus asked at the appointed  times to leave the mountaintop, al-Haram al-Sharif. This practice is more restrictive than what is allowed by  the Jews and Christians below.

Muslims arrive on the sacred height by other entrances, from the Muslim quarter. After being summoned by several muezzin callers who chant their calls through loudly amplified minaret towers, the Mohammedan faithful enter those two holy structures to pray.

All of this carefully controlled sharing of the sacred mountain takes place every day in Jerusalem. Thanks be to ____ that this happens peacefully.

And this Christian says, may it always be so! until ____ visits the place in a more persuasive way, and perhaps aligns us all on the same page.

Pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Back down at the lower plaza level, the Israeli administrators of this dividedly sacred mountain have posted a sign that acknowledges the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy so long ago.

IsIsaiah2

If you enjoying listening to music, you may appreciate hearing a song about this mountain. My friend David wrote and recorded it many years ago, with a little help from our friends, Danny, Donna and Jenny:

Aliyah Yerushalayim

Glass half-Full

The Second Thummin

January 30, 2020

. . . with acknowledgements to WB Yeats and Biblical canon . . .

Yearning and burning in a maddening ire

the westbank will not heed the politic;

Deals fall apart; the treaties cannot hold.

Teargas mask is worn into the streets,

the rage-dimmed riot is loosed, here and there

the ceremony of negotiation is torched;

the dealers have no persuasion, while the rebels

are full of fired-up intensity.

Some new negotiation is perpetually at hand;

surely the second drumming is at hand

as dissenters thrust their ire upon the streets

while our imagined urim of mideast peace

crumbles every now and then, again, again,

And signed intent once again is bent

to pathetic riot in westbank streets,

‘cuz discontent, predictable as levantic sun

moves its riotous claws to dismantle what’s been done,

as skirmishes between these ancient tribes

cast shadows o’er our peacenik vibes.

Oh! That forty-one centuries of tribal strife

could be laid to rest in a rocking cradle!

Bethlehem

When prince of peace, his Bethlehem phase  done at last

descends to Olivet, with peace that  lasts!

Oh, You may say that I’m a dreamer,

but I’m not the only one!

Glass half-Full

Christmas

December 12, 2019

And the world wonders at the centuries-long persistence of Christmas among the Christians.

Christmas

Hung upon this tree, almost every ornament represents a hallowed memory, or a different era of 40 years shared between one man and one woman, and the three now-grown children who filled up the void in their shared life.

Several ornaments are hand-me-downs from the grand- and great-grand- generations who are now gone to that great yuletide in the heavens.

Gazing at the tree on a chilly December night, although the room is quite warm, calls to mind all those past Christmases.

Christ the Saviour is born. And another family lives to tell the yuletide tale.

Believe it or not, the true, original Christmas spirit is potent, alive and well, and still passing from generation to generation.

A relic of days gone by?

Perhaps. But much more than that, a celebration of eternity to come, made real by the child born in Bethlehem so long ago—the one who grew up to conquer hell and death on a goddam cross.

Believe it not. The manger was good enough for Jesus; it’s good enough for us. It’s a potent story with an eternal ending. Join in if you’ve caught the Spirit.

Glass half-Full

Felix’s Fortress Forté

August 4, 2019

While tuned into radio WDAV a day or two ago . . .

listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony,

we suddenly discerned a developing  melodic surprise:

gentle strains of a classic religious tune, A Mighty Fortress is Our God . . .  drifting into the 3rd movement of the music.

Twenty-three minutes into this performance,

Orchestra

those first melodic snippets of Luther’s famous hymn—I heard, venturing in discreetly, during the slow Andante phase of Mendelssohn’s 1832 orchestral composition.  By the end of the piece, however, the understated entrance of that well-known melody had morphed into being the very core of the symphony’s dynamic, forceful conclusion.

This gentle arrival of a familiar melody that incrementally develops into a forcefully conclusive forté—this is a composer’s technique found in several classical music masterpieces. . . most notably Beethoven’s (last) 9th Symphony, and a favorite American piece of mine, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

In the case of Ludwig van Beethoven’s use of  a developing melodic theme that overpowers all other musical elements, Ludwig used his own emphatic original tune to fortify a potent message of popular 18th-century zeitgeistuniversal brotherhood. The words that Beethoven chose to accompany his theme had been composed by Friedrich Schiller, a primary 18th-century poet of the Romantic period in our western history.

In the similar case of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the composer employs a traditional religious melody—the “Shaker” theme, Simple Gifts, as a musical fulcrum for propelling the idea of mere simplicity into a commendable lifestyle.

The emphasis on simplicity is a powerful motivating factor in American history. The Puritans. for instance, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, were fleeing an oppressive European religious straightjacket culture; they wanted to simplify their worship of God and to enable the practice of glorifying our Creator in community life.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, a great composer whose family heritage was Jewish,  20th-century composer Aaron Copland chose to utilize a well-established Christian melody as the basis for  fortifying a powerful musical masterpiece.

In other trends of this earthly life . . . in the realm of, let’s say, political compositions—as compared to musical ones—recently I read a book that represents a similar dynamic of compositional accomplishment. David Horowitz’s timely book, Dark Agenda brings to light a contemporary American Christian culture that is under attack from secularizing—yeah, even aggressively anti-religious—zealots.

Perhaps we simple-minded Christians of this era–as well as those more complex Reformed believers whose reforms originated with Martin Luther five centuries ago–will find fortifying encouragement and strong inspiration in these classically-inclined masterpieces:

~~ Felix Mendelsson’s 5th Symphony

~~ Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring,

     oh, and btw. . . honorable mention . . .

~~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

King of Soul

Our Responsibility for Creation

May 11, 2019

Back in the 1960’s, when the Greening urge seemed to dawn upon us domesticated industrialized people . . . after the influence of Rachel Carson and others who followed in her path of conscientious awareness . . . we found a useful word to name the bad, destructive stuff we dump into our environment.

The word was: Pollution.

In the last decade or two, when the contemporary Green movement adopted the “global warming” and “climate change” phrases, they did not realize they were doing their cause a disservice. Those two terms—what has now been settled into as “climate change,” are too ambiguous to be of any real use.

Why? Because in the billions of years this planet has been evolving, the climate has always been changing; furthermore, those changes have, all along, included periods of warming. Now that we have determined—accurately, in my view—that much of that “warming” or “change” is our fault, we need to start fixing the problem, not fight about it. The fighting will only throw up more carbon.

But we ought  not, in that campaign, negate the human rights of people to make judicious use of what we have found in this planet.

For Greens and others who advocate for clean or redemptive policy to ceaselessly nag the rest of us about climate change is self-defeating. The chosen terminology confuses the real issues. Joe Sixpack and Jane Doe don’t understand what you mean by “climate change.”

The term is counterproductive. Citizens are missing the point because of your ambiguous terminology.

The real point is that we are polluting this, our planetary home. And we collectively must find a way to minimize that pollution as much as possible, if not altogether eliminate it: pollution—whatever is bad shit that adversely affects or damages our holy Earth. Some pollution is carbon, and some is even more seriously destructive than mere carbon.

Carbon is, after all, the essential component of life itself. You can’t go organic without it.

See what you think about this idea . . .

Let’s just divert all the carbon into one place and then form it into bicycles so we can pedal around the planet without spewing destructive gases everywhere we go. Is that a good idea? Yes? OK, you go first and maybe I’ll follow along if I can summon up the energy in my 67-year-old legs to pedal from here to wherever I have to go from now on  in life.

Furthermore, how are we going to get all the carbon diverted to a pre-assigned appropriately contained space?

Good luck with that.

AirSilt

As far as getting started or building up some momentum in this planetary cleanup project is concerned, let’s just cut to the chase in our strategy. Tell everybody:

Give a hoot; don’t pollute!

Widespread awareness among mankind is the key to making reparative change on this front; education is the means to achieve it. All ye extreme climate change advocates need to focus on educating us the public instead of threatening all mankind with your proposed centrally-planned regimes of soviet  oppressive control.

I am supportive of your zeal for our threatened planet, and I want to help. But my entrance into the fray is colored by a worldview that, among your peer group, seems alien to the cause of planetary cleanup.

But we Christians are not really against you. We are against politics that wants to abscond our human rights for the sake of improvement that may actually never be workable.

Meanwhile, back at the green, hopefully carbon-neutral homestead . . .

I just read an essay that says concisely almost everything I have been trying to say about environmental issues for the last ten years.

   https://www.amazon.com/Sex-Economy-Freedom-Community-Essays/dp/0679756515.   

Thirty or so years ago, a compatriot of ours, Wendell Berry, wrote and spoke:

~ “the culpability of Christianity in the destruction of the natural world,  and the uselessness of Christianity in any effort to correct that destruction are now established cliches of the conservation movement. This is a problem. . .”

~ “Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures.”

~ “Our predicament now, I believe, requires us to learn to read and understand the Bible in the light of the present fact of Creation.”

~ “. . . careful and judicious study. . . (and) making very precise distinctions between biblical instruction and allegedly respectable Christian behavior.

~ “. . . our native religion should survive (and should be allowed to survive -editor) and renew itself so that it may become as largely instructive as we need it to be. On such a survival and renewal of the Christian religion may depend the survival of the Creation that is its subject.”

~ “We will discover that God found the world, as He made it, to be good, that He made it for his pleasure, and that he continues to love it and to find it worthy, despite its reduction and corruption by us.”

~ “We will discover that for these reasons our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of our family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy.”

~ “We have the right to use the gifts of nature but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property.”

In support of this last statement, we note In the book of Leviticus:

“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine (the Lord’s); for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

“Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. . .

“ . . . but if he (the poor one who has defaulted) has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of Jubilee.”

So we understand from the Bible that private property is a part of our heritage. But in a larger sense—a world understood to be co-habited by billions of pooping people— the earth belongs to all of us, and we are all, all of us, collectively responsible for it.

—Even as we are individually responsible for our own souls, and whatsoever property the Lord hath entrusted to each man, woman, family, group, nation, species of us.

Looking even further back in our history, and in the enduring Biblical canon which many of us still subscribe to, we find in the very first chapter, this directive:

“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Back in the industrial age when we mechanized using steam power to rearrange the entire civilized world, we interpreted that “subdue it” command as: do whatever you need (want) to it to make it work in your favor.

But now, two or three centuries later, we need to interpret that “subdue” differently.

In biblical retrospect, we see It means: make Godly use of the resources we find. It does not mean “destroy it.”

It does not mean use nature for a dump. It does not mean “pollute it.”

It does not mean frack it.

Fracking? What the hell?

I think you fracking oil companies should voluntarily cease the practice of injecting poisonous chemicals and busting up earth’s crust for the sake of pumping out oil. If that means I’ll have to do with less oil and/or gas, then I’ll just have to deal with it.

When God created the world, he pronounced it “good.”

Let’s keep it that way if we can.

King of Soul

Religion Relapse

December 20, 2018

How odd it is—as a 21st-century scenario sets itself up—

we see the world gone mad preparing again to erupt.

So unforeseen it was that our great Argument of the Ages,

the dogmatic contentions of cadres and sages

should abandon the trappings of intelligent delusion

and revert to jihadic religious intrusion.

 

Europa intelligentsia had decided that God was indeed dead,

and they talked for a few generations of what to do instead:

whether a capitalist path or the communist wrath,

then a communist road or a big fascist goad—

And in the midst of all that

polarizing ideological spat—

we waged two world-class wars to settle the matter

of who should wield power and who should be scattered.

You know the drill;

it persists among us still:

Who should be in charge?

a strong-arm few or the people at large—

a fascist state or some proletarian rabble,

by authoritarian edict or sectarian babble?

  

After all the holocaust horror and gulag gangrene

we plummet again to mucky slog of humanic bad dream.

Obsessive jihadi encircle the world;

believing their fanatic flag will fully unfurl.

Back at the hub the elite are perplexed,

while their technocrat cadres compute the complex

as the widening gyre of the jihadi fire

leaps higher and higher and higher and higher.

  

Perhaps the privileged, enlightened elite

should renew communion with the (wo)man on the street

whose faith in a sacrificial, Prince of Peace deity

ChristCruc

brings resurrection instead of  jihad enmity.

Could it be that the God who was tossed aside

by the godless secular bureaucratizing tide

is actually the same eternal entity

who spoke our world out of chaos infinity?

Oh, let us recover some providential indemnity,

and by this testament regain our serenity.

After the Enlightenment, the Ideology, the Decline and the Fall,

Think about it the repentative way: Selah, y’all.

King of Soul