Community, History & Traditions

Sunday Sayings – The Soul

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”

Dorothy Day

Scallops and waldorf salad
Scallops salad

My daughter asked me yesterday, ” What really is the ‘soul‘?” Her intellectual brother-in-law quipped it was part of a shoe, and his partner added that it was the Capital of South Korea! But I knew what ‘soul’ she was referring to, but I’d never really explained it in simple terms before, so I was momentarily speechless.


Each time I tried to define that immaterial part of a human; that spirit self which we might deem to constitute a soul, I found it was difficult to explain without using some kind of religious reference. And I am not religious!

In order to find clues that might point to an explanation of such existential matters, I turned to the traditional proverbs and sayings. As usual, they were a good source of information.

Some proverbs intrinsically link the concept of a soul with nationhood and language, identitiy itself, perhaps. This appears to occur across a variety of the world’s cultures, and ones as diverse as Scottish Gaelic and Irish, to Malay, Spanish and Indonesian.

Bahasa jiwa bangsa. Bahasa menunjukkan bangsa.
Language is the soul of a nation. Language represents the nation.

Indonesian Proverb
Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck

Apparently, King Solomon tied the concept of a ‘soul’ to personality traits and interactions with others:

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind;

it is destroyed when you are cruel.”

Whilst Aristotle is thought to have said:

The soul never thinks without a picture.”

the Mexicans contrastingly focused on what nourished the soul:

Conversation is food for the soul.

Mexican Proverb

and it was the Polish that thought mostly of its expression:

Conscience is the voice of the soul.

Polish Proverb

What does the concept of the ‘soul’ mean for you?

Do the sayings reflect the relevance of the meaning of the word today?

Does one’s soul play an intrinsic part of your identity, or is it significant in determining your values, or life’s purpose?

Or is it rather only an ethereal, mystical entity of which you feel detached from, in real life?

I invite you to join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important. What is yours?

Mostly anonymous, proverbs are a portal through time to generations past and echo a diverse range of cultures. They speak of the experiences of many lessons learned and the wisdom from thousands of lives already lived. They offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton.

Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.