"I saw my soul at rest upon a day
As a bird sleeping in the nest of night,"
We then had an interesting discussion about how we view the soul: as a bird in a nest? Does the soul exist. The teacher called on me, saying, "We have a poet in the room. Kristin, how do you see the soul?"
Oh, the pressure! So I answered honestly. I said, "I see the soul as being somewhat trapped by the body, which will break down in all sorts of ways."
We talked about the body as a sort of cage, and I hastened to say that I wasn't really comfortable with the theology behind it. I wanted to make a speech about the dangers of Gnosticism, but that would have required hijacking the whole class. I also wanted to talk about the dangers of dualism, about the new philosophies of the mind, about all sorts of stuff that would have been tangentially relevant, but not particularly helpful to the interpretation of the poem.
In the end, I reminded myself that I was in the room to observe, not to take over. And I was glad that I practiced the spiritual discipline of being quiet. It was great to listen to the students have a spirited (soulful? how many puns could I make?) discussion about the soul, about the ways we live a good life or recover from our mistakes--and I was interested that no one really mentioned God in a traditional way. I could tell that the students who spoke had some sort of spiritual life--or at least, a yearning or two that had been acknowledged. I couldn't tell you much about their specific beliefs or practices.
I admired the way that the teacher wove the conversation back to the line by line analysis of the poem. I was happy that most of the students stayed with her.
But more than that, I was thrilled to see that students are still thinking about spiritual and philosophical questions, like "What is the nature of a soul?"