This excerpt expresses my long-term goals for this blog. It’s from Alexander McCall Smith in Sunshine on Scotland Street from the 44 Scotland Street series.
And at that moment, in Angus’s eyes, the room was transformed. The small crowd, brought together to mark the return of their hosts from a short absence, became not just a collection of people conversing with one another at a party, but an infinitely precious band of souls. Souls, thought Angus; that is just the right word. And he remembered reading something that had made a deep impression on him- a small thing, in one view of it, but a very major thing in another. He read that in the language used for radio communication at sea, the number of people on board was always expressed in terms of souls. “We have ten souls on board,” a sailor might say when asking for assistance from a passing ship. Ten souls. Not ten people. Not ten passengers. Not ten customers. Ten souls.
And this realisation that he had was not specifically religious- although it could be easily and appropriately that. It was, rather, a spiritual notion- the idea that each of us, even the least of us, has a rich hinterland of value behind us: the lives we have led, the thoughts we have had, the love we have given and received- the little things of our lives that may not mean much to others unless and until they are granted the insight that Angus was suddenly vouchsafed; that insight that brings love into the heart, sudden, singing, exalting love. To see another as a soul was to acknowledge the magnificent, epic course that life is for each of us, and to experience sympathy for the other in his or her negotiation of that course. It was quite different from seeing others simply as people. The word soul had a big job to do, and it was the only word that could do it.
Thanks to Donna Chirichetti for making the connection between this excerpt and my goal for this blog.