This New York Times bestseller (more than 200,000 hardcover copies sold) provides a path-breaking lifestyle handbook that shows how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul.
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January 26, 1994
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Excerpt from Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is "loss of soul." When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it. We have today few specialists of the soul to advise us when we succumb to moods and emotional pain, or when as a nation we find ourselves confronting a host of threatening evils. But within our history we do have remarkable sources of insight from people who wrote explicitly about the nature and needs of the soul, and so we can look to the past for guidance in restoring this wisdom. In this book I will draw on that past wisdom, taking into account how we live now, to show that by caring for the soul we can find relief from our distress and discover deep satisfaction and pleasure.
It is impossible to define precisely what the soul is. Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine. We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful. When you look closely at the image of soulfulness, you see that it is tied to life in all its particulars -- good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that stay in the memory and touch the heart. Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.
Modern psychologies and therapies often contain an unspoken but clear salvational tone. If you could only learn to be assertive, loving, angry, expressive, contemplative, or thin, they imply, your troubles would be over. The self-help book of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which in some fashion I'm taking as a model, was cherished and revered, but was never great art and didn't promise the sky. It gave recipes for good living and offered suggestions for a practical, down-to-earth philosophy of life. I'm interested in this humbler approach, one that is more accepting of human foibles, and indeed sees dignity and peace as emerging more from that acceptance than from any method of transcending the human condition. Therefore, this book, my own imagination of what a self-help manual could be, is a guide offering a philosophy of soulful living and techniques for dealing with everyday problems without striving for perfection or salvation.