The author C.S. Lewis is sometimes credited with the quotation, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” I like that notion. There’s some debate about the origin of the quotation, and I don’t particularly care who gets credit, but this idea is a thread that runs through my upcoming novel, Camelot’s Misplaced Son, and I’d like to kick it around a bit.
I don’t pretend to be a deep thinker of profundities. I’m doing well to come up with a four-syllable word like “profundities”. But Mr. Lewis’s thesis does beg the question, “How are bodies assigned to souls?” We know who does the assigning – insert your deity here – but what’s the process? How is it decided which soul gets which shell to use while they’re here, and what parents?
That’s one that goes unanswered, I suppose, but for the sake of making up a wild-ass theory, let’s just say there’s a line – actually, a line and a list of parents. Please refer to the Table 4A below:
Pat Howard and Joan Paxton
Davis John F. and Jacquelyn Kennedy
Joe Clem and Clara Doe
As you can see in the list above, the next soul in line for distribution is Pat, who has the wonderful good fortune of being assigned to Howard and Joan. Total fluke. He gets to be assigned to loving parents in a relatively safe part of the world during a time of prosperity. Pat’s given the further advantage of having parents whose shell looks a lot like the overwhelming majority of shells in his part of the world. He is being set up quite nicely. Being born to a middle-class family, he’ll still need to work to create a comfortable life in his adulthood, but will have an advantageous foundation from which to launch.
Next comes Davis. He appears to be the most fortunate of this lot of souls. Davis has received the coveted assignment to occupy the fourth and final shell of the Siblings of American Camelot. Like every soul traipsing around this little part of the universe, Davis will have his problems. Everyone, no matter how fortunate, does. However, concerns caused by a lack of resources or uncaring parents will not be among them.
Next in line behind Davis, is Joe, who just missed out on a life full of advantages. When he was further back, Joe suppressed the urge to jump out of line and take a leak because chances looked good for him to land in Hyannis Port. However, when his turn arrived, he was hopping around on one foot only to find he would be put in the care of Clem and Clara Doe. Joe gets to look forward to watching Clem get drunk and take out his frustrations on Clara and the kids. Before Clem leaves the family entirely, he so discourages Joe and his siblings of there being any good in the world, that Joe’s prospects for any type of normalcy are severely diminished.
I was led to this way of thinking about twenty or so years ago, after seeing a homeless man – like our friend Joe – and wondering how close he might have been to receiving a better shell assignment. Any of us could have been Joe. Any of us Davis. I’m thankful to have been Pat.
I’ve tried to resist the urge to want to trade places with anyone. No matter how grand someone else’s life appears, you never know what they’re dealing with, or what problems they may have beneath the surface. I know my problems and can deal them, and I’m not willing to trade the two hundred bucks handed to me by Monty Hall (now, Wayne Brady) for what’s behind Door Number 1. Whether my two hundred bucks looks to others like fifty cents or million bucks, there’s nothing I would trade it for.
My point: being born at all – at all – is such an incredible long shot, that every one of us really is incredibly special. You are the result of one little swimmer, beating out about fifty million others to be the first one to the egg and plant his flag. If only one other swimmer got there first, a completely different person is created – not you. I just wish everyone felt as special as they really are, and maybe there wouldn’t be the people in the world acting out in violence and other ways to get attention.
I acknowledge all of this optimism is coming from a guy who, after all, gets to be me. If I were prone to using emogis, here’s where I’d insert a smiley facing, winking. I, like everyone, speak from a certain perspective, a perspective which I’m thankful to occupy. So, I won’t sit here and tell everyone they should cheer up. I can’t see the view from where you sit – but I’ll give it a try if you will.