Even if you’re not an animist (yet), you will in all probability not have any problems acknowledging that your cat or dog has a soul. You communicate with them. They react. They understand. We might also be able to grasp quickly how plants (especially trees! Who does not want to talk to a tree?) can be said to have souls as well. They are, after all, alive. But what about the inanimate beings that populate our world? Are they really in-animate – soulless, without consciousness – as we are wont to see them?
In another post we were reminded of how we all connect to certain things in a way that suggests we see and treat them as rather animate, even if they are obviously not alive in the way your dog is. You are talking to your car. Cursing your computer. Wearing your boyfriend’s t-shirt when you miss him. Taking your special good luck bag to your job interview.
Are these just quirks? Superstitions? Projections?
Some weeks ago, Beith explained to us how a rock can have a consciousness, a soul, not only through the specific frequencies of its atoms and the specific pattern of its crystal structures, but also through the experiences that, literally, shaped it.
It is the same for us, of course. Even before the moment of conception, both the egg and the sperm that would be “you” one day were already imprinted through their genes and epigenetics with certain information, shaped by certain experiences that may reach back several generations. The fetus that is “you”, individuality and characteristics already present (as every mother who recognizes her newborn’s kicks knows), acquires more, simply by hearing what it hears, being fed what it is fed, and generally taking part in its mother’s life.
So even before birth, the moment when our soul is said to officially descend into our bodies (which I do not completely agree with, by the way), we are unique beings, uniquely and intrinsically connected to the outside world, with a unique consciousness already in place. I see this baby consciousness, inherent in the matter we are made up of, as rolled into a tiny ball, balled up like a pair of socks, and the older we get, the more it unfurls. As we build our neural pathways, snaking out axons and weaving them together into a web, we are, at the same time, snaking our senses out into the world, building connections to all that surrounds us. The more connections we form towards both the outer and inner worlds, the stronger our senses get – the five obvious ones as well as those lobbed into the drawer called “psychic or sixth sense(s)”.
And it is quite easy to see how this might apply to your favourite t-shirt as well. That cotton plant, after all, is growing under certain conditions, on a specific patch of land, it is watered with water that carries specific kinds of information. Its fibre is picked in a certain way or even by certain individuals. It is then decontaminated, spun, dyed, knit or woven, cut, sewed into a certain shape, packaged up, transported (again), unpacked, hung in a specific shop, handled by salespeople and customers, finally taken home and worn … or not.
Even before it acquires the status of “lucky shirt” this garment has been shaped by and connected to a lot of different energies, adding to the ones that are uniquely “cotton” to begin with. A lot of magical or spiritual traditions state that ritual tools or garments (or the special room or corner of a room where you do your practice) are imprinted with the energies raised during those rituals or practices. After a while, just stepping into your yoga room will make your mind go into “practising yoga” state. The way we connect to our tool, our robe, our room or our dog shapes them, leaves imprints on both of us. A connection is forged. And so it is with all things we use regularly. Our energy and intent gets added to what each thing already has, from the atoms it is made up of, its molecular structures, the structure those molecules form, its parents (corporeal or energetic) and all its experiences prior to us.
Now, if you’re an avid AnimaMonday reader, you may remember one post about plastic and how plastic lacks a soul. Thinking back to what I described above, a problem becomes obvious immediately: plastic lacks connection. It is not born or grown but manufactured by machines and robots (yes, most commonly from mineral oil, which is in fact decayed plant and animal matter, we can’t make atoms after all, and it does retain that part of its consciousness*). It does have the energy and frequencies inherent in its atoms and molecular structures, and through them, its own place in the collective consciousness, but it has little in way of connection to the living, in-spirited world. So that ballpoint pen, that gimmicky Christmas sweater made of 100% acrylics, that plastic spoon set – they come to us lacking a big part of their soul: that which makes them part of the web of life. We notice this, of course we do: we even use the words “plastic” or “plasticky” when we mean “empty, superficial”. Plasticky music, plasticky beauty, plastic life styles.
And still, a thing made of plastic is no less of a being than any other. Your toddler loves his acrylic teddy the same as he does the 100% organic wool one, loves his building blocks and refuses to drink from any cup but his beloved plastic sippy cup. Through his love, the plastic being gains its soul. (Of course, this not only applies to plastics, this is true for every item that is produced to be disposable or short lived.)
And this is where our current problem stems from. It does not really matter whether something is made of natural materials or plastic (at least in the soul-sense), the issue is that we do not love our things. We do not cherish them. We do not seek connection with them, do not build a history with them, we do not inherit them or pass them on to our grandchildren. In the same way as we accumulate Facebook friends, and think liking their posts is the same as being in a relationship, we think possession or ownership is enough. We buy thoughtlessly, use things once or twice, store them in the dark, and throw them, thoughtlessly, in the trash next time we de-clutter … if we de-clutter.
“Every thing you own, owns a piece of your energy”, is a sentiment often expressed by Feng Shui consultants or people who teach de-cluttering. And so it is. Each of our stored-away-in-the-closet things clamours for connection, for soul, for our energy to imprint it, to make it whole, to make it belong. They may be garishly colourful outside, but otherwise they are bland. They crave you posting on their wall so that they can “like” or comment, but they do not have, not yet, any experiences to post on yours. And so it feels as if they, like energy vampires, siphon off our energy, our spirit, leaving us so curiously empty in our plastic lives, floating about untethered.
If you’re uncomfortable with this image, turn it upside down: you are the one untethered, because you give lots of physical space to things that do not occupy space in your heart or mind, these things are present, but not present, unconnected.
The solution is simple, in either case. Whatever you own, whatever is part of your life, inanimate or animate, plastic or organic, handmade or factory produced, establish connections to it. Reach out with your senses, engage.
As you do this on the outside, your inner connectedness, your consciousness will grow accordingly. Love your dinged and danged up car, instead of exchanging it after two years for a new one, and you will come to view your increasingly creased, wrinkled, dinged and danged body in a different way as well. Build history with your clothes, your cooking spoon, your special mug, and will, in turn, be part of that history too. Soon you will find deep satisfaction in knowing your place, in being a special and unique part of the pattern of the web of life.
*Footnote: As we can’t make new atoms, every material must, by default, be natural. There is still a felt difference between materials that have grown naturally, kept the structure they’ve grown into, like wool or wood or stone, and plastic. Plastic does retain the consciousness inherent in the atoms that used to be plants and animals, but less so the environmental connections they formed, their memories. Plastic has been artificially produced, transformed beyond recognition – much like a cow pat is not still the same as the flowery alpine meadow, or the tree that has been fed my ashes will not be “me” either.
Text and images by Saille Freeling
Saille has been wandering along spiritual and mystic paths for the past two decades until she found her home in OBOD. She calls herself bard-in-training; in real life she is a biologist and editor.
4 thoughts on “The Hidden Life of Things”
This post helps me because it gives me a way to think about the things, many of which are made of plastic and synthetic materials, that my partner and I had to buy and work with in order to renovate our old farmhouse … from tools to construction materials to water pipes to insulation to you-name-it. These plastic-y things are hard to relate to and not easy to love, but they’re made of the only materials that were available and affordable, so love them I shall. Thanks for opening up this possibility. You make me feel better about the house I live in.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, Harriet! In construction more so than a lot of other fields, it’s hard to do without plastics. We can’t all go back to copper pipes (or lead – anyone!?). Even in packaging, compound materials or plastics may be more ecofriendly than glass, which is surprisingly expensive (in terms of CO2) to produce and transport. Alas, alas! It’s exceedingly hard to do the right thing and it’s no use to anyone if we beat ourselves up for not managing to get everything up to our inner standards or not being able to afford all-natural and all-organic. But what we can do is limit our mindless consumerism and mindless consumption of resources, plastic especially. That’s mostly what I wanted to convey 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thought-provoking stuff. I love the concept of something gaining soul/spirit/conenction from being used and loved. We pour our energy into it, and share its original energy with ourselves. Hence why Marie Kondo (whose decluttering method is of course steeped in animistic Shinto) encourages us to thank any item we are discarding, for the connection it shared with our lives.