Got Soul?

Recently, I was subjected to fifteen plus showings of Blue’s Big Musical Movie, some end to end.  (Don’t ask–it’s too complicated.)  Whenever I’m forced to watch one of my children’s videos over and over I choose this one because IMO Steve Burns’s blue screen performances are a wonder to behold, especially here. 

Another reason I tolerate repeated exposure to BBMM is the movie’s “soul” segment where Ray Charles as the hip yet patient G-Clef instructs Steve on how to give that song he’s writing that certain “something you can feel.”  Ray Charles’s musical take on soul prods me to sit straight and listen up every time.  Yes, I’m aware that Mr. Salt, perhaps in collaboration with some other lively condiment, household item, or piece of furniture wrote the song that Ray Charles sings.  And yes, I’m aware the song is uneven in its levels of accomplishment.  But Charles’s gravel-voiced G-Clef makes calling down the rocking angels of soul seem not only simple but absolutely necessary if you want your song to get across.  Each time G-Clef belts out his advice to our fair-skinned boy Steve, I wonder: Can we apply this advice to other arts, like literature?  If so, how about Mormon literature?  Does Molit have soul?  If not, should it?

“Soul” is one of those words the use of which often provokes semantic quibbles.  This is because it has many meanings, some of which figure prominently into differing religious or cultural lexicons.  Say “soul” to a Wasatch Front Mormon, to a Latin American Catholic, and to an agnostic jazz enthusiast and that one single word conjures in each case different worlds of meaning. 

While the word “soul” is used variously throughout Mormon scripture and doctrinal works, according to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, it carries the important and specific meaning of “the united entity of the spirit with the physical body.” Usually, this definition is the one the Mormon mind alights upon when it hears the word “soul.”

The “soul” G-Clef tries to teach Steve about bears no resemblance to this common, Sunday school-variety Mormon “soul.”  “Reach down deep inside you,” G-Clef croons, “and pull up something real.  That’s what makes it special, something you can feel.”  The Mormon word “soul” is darned near a technical term attached to the combination of the spirit and body into mortal being.  The artistic quality sometimes called “soulfulness” is about emotional pizzazz such as enables mortal beings to create outstanding expressions of the human experience that defy description.  You simply have to be there.

Of course, specific applications of the word “soul,” meaning an artistic or cultural quality, do exist.  The American Heritage Dictionary reminds us that soul is ” … emotional strength or spiritual vitality held to derive from Black and especially African-American cultural experience, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music.” By this definition some Mormons–African American Mormons–may lay claim to rights of soul while others may not.  But a more general definition of “soul” opens up the concept even to a multi-generation, fair-haired Mormon child of Northern European descent:

soul: A strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, performer, or artist (American Heritage Dictionary).

Such a noncommittal definition appears to attest to soul’s indefinable something.  But given this rolled-flat-on-the-pavement description one wonders what might distinguish authentic soul from gross sentimentality (defined by some as “unearned emotion”), exhibitionism, or public, artistic (or crafty) forms of abuse.  Some would say, “Nothing!” but I beg to differ.  Soul as a quality of artistic expression “makes it real.”  That is, truly soulful art has a delicious yet unpretentious sense of self and of community at large.

When we look to soul as a goal for Mormon literature, the temptation is to grab it and spirit it away to the religious sector of our lives.  After all, how can any expression have meaning except as it edifies and purifies us in preparation to stand before our distinctly Mormon God?

But this is perhaps where Mormon literature may go most wrong and find itself shut out from rights to soul, because one of soul’s greatest appeal is its universality and its expression of the sweet and alluring strain that exists between heaven and earth.  Also, soul abides simultaneously in the here and now and in the when.  Quick now, here, now, always–that’s soul.  It explodes one man’s or woman’s full-bodied expression into a banquet that all may attend, their individual specialty and ethnic dishes in hand–rich and poor, old and young, washed or unwashed–and yes, even Mormon.

However, in order to partake at this Banquet of Soul, many Mormons–artists included–must overcome their discomfort with or even aversion to mortality, along with that singularly hyper-religious loneliness some Mormons cultivate when they reject the presence and value of their not-Mormon or differently-Mormoned fellows, turning exclusively in their longing to the “next life” and to God.

IMO the quality of a culture’s art is a good indicator of the culture’s “soul factor,” or of its investment in the human experience at large.  And IMO the emotional aenemia that some assert gives Mormon literature its overall pale complexion testifies to existence of a cultural and perhaps spiritual isolation and loneliness.  When it comes to soul’s grand spread, some mainstream cultural Mormon writers seem to turn up their noses and thus starve their art. Which, given Christ’s example of breaking bread with just about everybody except perhaps Pharisees, seems … well, soul-less.

That’s my opinion at the present, but what do you think, dear reader?  Does Mormon literature have soul? Does it need it?  If it needs it, can it in fact get it?  Does some Molit have soul and some not?  What works of Mormon literature do you think might qualify as soulful?  Are their soulful qualities beneficial or might their soulfulness actually depreciate their overall value to cultural Mormonism?  And most importantly, as per the oft-cited “Fiddler envy,” can Mormon literature ramp up its artistic charisma and cultural ethos and thus become more palatable to others outside the writers of South Park episodes? 

20 thoughts on “Got Soul?”

  1. WOW! great post.

    Your definition of soul comes across as a combination of authenticity and universality (which may, in the end, be much the same thing). In that vein, I’m much persuaded that Mormon literature does need soul, and soul is therefore almost a definition of what makes good literature. Literature without soul, like music without soul simply doesn’t speak to anyone!

    I think you can go further. Doesn’t this idea explain some of the distinction between some critically-acclaimed yet inaccessible works and more popular works? Could it be that some of the well-crafted literature coming out of US English departments simply lack’s soul?

    You might be able to go even further. Can anti-intellectualism be explained, at least in part, as a backlash against a lack of soul?

    A great, meaty post!

  2. Excellent, Patricia. And you lead with an example that speaks to me (BBMM is quite popular in the Morris household as are the Muppet movies and the Max and Ruby collections).

    I’m especially grabbed by your linking of the Mormon definition of soul — the body and the spirit — with the cultural definition.

    One thing that I would like to see more of — and you allude to this above — is work that captures the joy found in this mortal, temporal existence — the delight of spirit wrapped in temporal matter interacting with temporal things, places and people. Mormons believe that we wanted to come to this life. This is both a testing ground for the next life and an amazing opportunity for our spirits to experience physical, temporal, mortal stuff.

    One of my short stories that I’m semi-actively working on is about a general authority widower and one of the things he writes in his journal is how although he has hope for the life to come and faith that he will see his wife again, he also mourns the loss of her as mortal spouse with a mortal body — the body that he knows — not the spirit without flesh and, later, the glorified body.

  3. “Your definition of soul comes across as a combination of authenticity and universality … ”

    Which makes it sound like I’m stating the obvious, doesn’t it? Which I am. Seems all the good stuff is obvious stuff. But stringing the obvious up in lights from time to time won’t hurt it.

    “I think you can go further. Doesn’t this idea explain some of the distinction between some critically-acclaimed yet inaccessible works and more popular works? Could it be that some of the well-crafted literature coming out of US English departments simply lack’s soul?”

    Thank you for taking this wider! I feel uncomfortable singling a group out as having a problem when the problem itself is the real issue and the group singled out is just one of many staggering beneath its load. But since this is a “Mormon” blog I feel compelled from time to time to constrict my focus. (Cough, cough)

    While I believe there’s time and place for complicated work that requires a certain level of sophistication in its audience, um, yeah–I do feel that many high-toned literary works, from English departments and other sources, lack soul. Which may be a result of writers being afraid of or not having a sense of audience. In other words, they don’t want or know how to be with others in the communities written language creates.

    “You might be able to go even further. Can anti-intellectualism be explained, at least in part, as a backlash against a lack of soul?”

    Well, I can imagine from the word “anti-intellectualism” what it is but I’m not sure what you mean by it. However, it’s clear to me that many “-isms” suffer backlashes because they set themselves against or above other “-isms.” Environmentalism comes immediately to my admittedly green-tinted mind, although environmental writing is undergoing a change, it’s becoming more open in its concept of audience and dropping formerly threatening and elitist stances in favor of work that shares its wonder and awe, thus instructing and edifying a larger community rather than setting people’s teeth on edge. In other words, many environmental or lyrical science writers are tapping into richer veins of soul and thus attracting, keeping, delighting, and enlightening wider audiences. I wish more writers with whatever focus they have would join the party and find language that gets across rather than that holes up and takes refuge. Then the peasants might not be revolting as often as they are. :-}

  4. “One thing that I would like to see more of …is work that captures the joy found in this mortal, temporal existence — the delight of spirit wrapped in temporal matter interacting with temporal things, places and people.”

    Wm, me too! Let’s really BE here, why don’t we? Loud and excessive laughter might be a turn-off to God but deep, soulful involvement in the creation around us, human elements included? And joy? As in “Man is that he might have” it? Bring it on, all you writers!

    Written language is in a unique position of creating great reams of sustained passion and joy that can cross distance and endure time’s passage. Sadness, loss, loneliness … we already all know how to do those, we’ve got stacks and stacks of books ending on those notes. As Tevye says in Fiddler, “We’ve already got the sickness … send us the cure!”

  5. I’ve been reading the New Testament recently, and I recall reading that Jesus broke bread with Pharisees on more than one occasion. I’m already on Acts, so I’m not going to go back and reread the Gospels anytime soon, but I found three instances just skimming through Luke: 7:36, 11:37, and 14:1. I’m not aware that he broke bread with any priests or Sadduccees, however, although it wouldn’t shake my faith terribly to find out that he did.

  6. Thank you, mem, for doing my work for me. I was aware at the time I wrote that phrase I was being a bit flippant but thought I’d see if I could get away with it. You caught me. :o!

    Now that I’ve been forced to be more fair to the poor Pharisees I might as well go all the way: Of course, just because the NT fails to mention (if it does) Christ’s breaking bread with Sadducees and priests it doesn’t follow that he snubbed them. In fact, I would like very much to discover that he supped with them along with the Pharisees. Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests–they hunger and thirst just like everybody else.

  7. To me, soul is when an author jumps off a cliff – metaphorically speaking. When authors aren’t sure they’re going to come out the other side, when they’re willing to lay down their inhibitions, when they’re willing to let the story take its full form, no matter how painful it is, or how long they have to work.

    Soul, I think, partially arises out of pain exquistely rendered.

  8. I’d be interested to know Patricia, what Mormon authors would you consider “sould?”

  9. Stephen, thanks for swinging by!

    “To me, soul is when an author jumps off a cliff – metaphorically speaking. When authors aren’t sure they’re going to come out the other side, when they’re willing to lay down their inhibitions, when they’re willing to let the story take its full form, no matter how painful it is, or how long they have to work.”

    Don’t want to give anybody the impression I’m setting myself up as some kind of Sultana of Soul, I’m as lost at sea on this topic as anybody. Maybe if Gladys Knight is around she would care to comment?

    But since you asked, I wonder if there are degrees or ages of soul. First let me see if I understand you. The kind of writing you describe above seems to be about the thrill, struggle, maybe even panic that accompanies an artist’s fledgling leaps of faith on a subject or in a situation. It even expresses the pain of tumbling to earth a few times and the resolution to get back into the air. It doesn’t always know if it’s going to come out of it alive but it’s resolved to get out there, come what may.

    At the risk of sounding old and stuffy, I had a period like this in my creative life. But do I ever remember it! This sort of writing has its own compelling energy and excitement — probably this period of a writer’s development warrants its own post — but IMO it isn’t the end-all of creative expression. IMVVHO it may be quite inhibited indeed. It’s inhibited by uncertainty and self-consciousness. Its sense of self is still off balance and its sense of audience teeters and rolls with its own turbulent POV.

    But I think another group, age, whatever of writers exists who have made the leap of faith many times and while they still feel the thrill of the leap they have have also gained confidence — confidence in the leap itself, confidence in the principles of flight, confidence they’ll land well on the other side of who they were (wherever that may be) and cool, isn’t this a groovy place indeed. These writers will probably express fuller degress of soulfulness in their work. They’ll be less inhibited because they’re less self-conscious. And they will have a better feel and regard for audience. In fact, a fair share of their impetus goes to their audience.

    “Soul, I think, partially arises out of pain exquistely rendered.”

    I wonder if (expressing?) pain might be to soul what cynicism is to irony — just one shade of a hue in a glorious full spectrum (if interested, see my post on irony http://www.motleyvision.org/?p=222 ). I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of pain qua pain so might not be the person to talk to about this. For some people pain runs off the map into “there be dragons here” regions and we get into pathologies, from which we may decline into soullessness. So something has to happen in experiences of pain that makes them meaningful not only as pain but as something more.

  10. Very good points, Patricia. And I certainly take them seriously as I consider you an accomplished writer (Flying in Enclosed Spaces was stunning).

    I think you’re right that I was writing out of my own experience in my initial post. Because those scary things are what I have to work with right now to access my creativity.

    A few years ago when I took the pen up seriously my main difficulty was shooing the little GA off my shoulder.

    I thought that when I wrote I needed to talk as if I had authority. I had to be right. Because the people whose writing is important in our culture (the GA and prospective GAs) are always right. So whenever I got to the end of an essay, I’d have to show how I was right.

    This killed any kind of voice I had because I was unconciously wondering how a GA would put it – or how the anti-GA would put it – the voice with equal authority but with a different agenda.

    So, as I intimated in my initial post, I had to see what it was like to just dive in. To explore chaos instead of always trying to order things. I had to give up having authority, and just say, here’s what I THINK.

    It was scary for me. I honestly thought I was gambling with my soul. But that was what lent my writing the little life it had, I was treading on charged ground. The words I put down had consequences that were important to me. But one i made the leap from writing what I thought I knew to only what I thought (and making it clear that it was only what I thought and should have no claim on my reader whatsoever as it was ONLY my story), I got a lot better.

    So you are further along in your career. And its interesting to hear you think about your current approaches to writing. It sounds very interesting.

  11. “It was scary for me. I honestly thought I was gambling with my soul. But that was what lent my writing the little life it had, I was treading on charged ground.”

    I understand this — I went through something similar. As my emotional and philosophical landscape changed with dizzying rapidity I remember wondering if I might be going mad. The ground just wouldn’t hold still. In my friendships and other associations I felt deeply lonely and overstimulated all at once. The culture around me offered no reassurance that I was going to come out of it all right. I had my share of bishops pushing complete sets of PMA tapes across the interview table at me and home teachers telling me I was a “dark soul.” My journals from that period in my life are going to shock my poor kids.

    Eventually I devised a little measuring stick, an idea, that helped me gauge whether the momentum-of-the-day sweeping me along was one I wanted to surrender to and go with or swim against.

    You know, the more I remember all this the more I think the topic might make a good post. I imagine a lot of young(er) writers out there are involved in personal quickenings and don’t know what’s going on. Or maybe creative writing classes are covering “quickenings” nowadays in their course syllabi. Hm, probably not. If I were to teach a creative writing class now, you could be sure I’d cover quickenings. Without stripping away the excitement and mystery of this wonderful and terrifying time in a budding artist’s life, of course.

  12. Quickenings, eh? I want to see your post on that. It certainly wasn’t covered in my writing classes.

  13. Good stuff, Patricia.

    I wonder to what degree our culture plays a part in our hesitancy towards the soulful. Testimony-time tears aside, I can’t imagine there’s a church out there with more stoic services than ours.

    On the other hand, given a broader definition of soul, I think it’s definitely there. States of Grace was really as genuinely soulful as a film can get.

  14. All I can say, is to that is

    “Hey hey,

    Shoobeedooay

    Beep bop bay

    Heyee Hayee!”

    Me and my two-year old dig that groove.

  15. I know this post is about two years old, but a friend just told me about your blog, and as an LDS musician I wanted to see what was written about music. There’s not much at present, but this article was compelling to me.

    The discussion of “soul” reminded me of an article from the Ensign, July 1977 written by Clayne Robison, a professor of vocal music at BYU. His article, “Singing Hymns with New Power” talked about once when he conducted a choir preparing for a BYU devotional performance. He talked about how they sang at different levels. “Level One” was pretty much just singing the correct notes and correct words. “Level Two” was singing with some understanding of the message they were singing about. “Level Three” is the idea (from an actor’s perspective) that “every thought you speak must be your own thought,” or in the case of music, not the composer’s song but rather your own song; not the lyricist’s words but your own words, emotions, and feelings. “No words come that are not preceded by a thought in the mind and a feeling in the spirit,” according to Dr. Robison. He then writes about “Level Four”:
    “For a few brief seconds 180 of us sang that inspired hymn at ‘level three’ and the Spirit burned its message into our hearts at ‘level four.’ …Many of us were in tears.”

    As a pianist, I can tell you that most musicians would happily reach “Level Three” and would consider that “soul” — when you are expressing yourself and what you believe in very deeply with the best of your skill and artistry. To have the Spirit burn in your soul as a blessing for your efforts is an amazing, and rare gift. It doesn’t happen as often as any of us would wish.

    To get to that point you have to “forget youself and get to work,” as President Hinckley’s father told him. You can’t play the music to impress upon people how very talented and skilled you are — “Hey everyone, pay attention to me!” — which is hard because as a musician I confess we are a group of attention-seeking divas. When you can forget yourself, and forget your audience, oops, I mean “congregation,” and just play to please the Lord and share your heartfelt testimony with others, then the power comes. It’s hard to describe and impossible to force — but occasionally you are just in the zone, and the performance goes beyond your mere fallable abilities.

    Of course, after you perform, you are likely to get compliments. Over the years I have found that the best compliments — the days I know I’ve performed with all my heart and soul — are the ones when people notice how beautiful the song is, and not just how beautifully I played it. When the comment is not “Wow, you did a great job!” but rather, “Wow, that piece you played really struck me.” or “The spirit was so strong in our meeting today.” Those are the days I feel I have truly done my job.

    Of course, I see most of the posts here are about literature. What I would love to see in literature is an author who can get past themselves (I wanna get published) and talk about being a Mormon without preaching and trying to convert his readers. Someone who shares the wisdom they’ve accumulated through the years, with less self-righteousness and more humility and love. Like the father in “To Kill a Mockingbird” who teaches his children to understand others by standing in their shoes both by lovingly pointing it out to his children, and more importantly by doing it. He doesn’t come off as preachy; he just lovingly shares what life has already taught him.

    Good luck to all you Mormon writers out there! I’m still hungering for the classic piece of Mormon literature that speaks to my heart and soul….

  16. Thanks for reading this post and commenting, Kelly. I appreciate it when people add to the “shopping list” of what they look for in Mormon writing.

    I understand your point about wishing for authors who can “get past themselves” and “talk about being a Mormon w/out preaching and trying to convert” readers.

    As a teacher of freshman composition-level students, many of whom are Native American and are not Mormon, I sometimes see this same urge to set everybody right about “the truth.” It’s an understandable urge — an instinct, almost, to try to right wrongs with forcible language. Yet it seems to me the most meaningful language does not attempt to force issues. The best language, for me, engages me in “choose ye this day” rhetoric, pointing up possibilities rather than narrowing or attempting to eliminate them.

    I have no final definition on what makes good art in any field, what I think changes so often I’ve come to depend upon the flux rather than any fixed definition. But as you say, love, I think, is capable of informing language (of all kinds) with multiform life, making performance or work of art into a garden allowing for a range of diverse responses rather a simple pigeonhole lacking room for much.

    It would seem, then, that artists questing for best expression would do well to learn, in concert with striving for skills particular to their art, to love with equally ascending desire and skill.

  17. Patricia,
    I like your last phrase, “to learn, in concert with striving for skills particular to their art, to love with equally ascending desire and skill.” Very well stated — something I will come back to and ponder again and again, I think.

    From the musician’s perspective, I can say that I have spent so very much of my life trying to get better and better — asking for, and indeed paying for, help from anybody who could help me reach my goals and improve my skills and performances. I have spent much time alone, in practice, working out the tiny details that make all the difference when a performance comes. I can also say I have spent very little of that time trying to develop the “skill” if you will, of loving others. It has only been as an adult, when I have been in a position to teach others, and share my talent with others that I finally have found how to share that talent with love for the Lord and others, rather than simply putting my own talent on display.

    I suspect developing that love takes as much practice as playing the piano; as much creativity as writing a piece for a choir; as much careful thought and perception as a Schenkerian analysis of a Bach Chorale; as much learning from the example of loving people around us as studying with a master teacher.
    And just as I will never be as good a musician as I would like to be (there’s always that unmastered piece out there), I suppose I will never be quite as loving and kind as I wish I could be.

    Anyhow, sorry for the self-absorbed rambling, but thank you for giving me something to think about. Have a good weekend and a Happy Easter!

  18. Hi Patricia,

    In searching for your email address to talk about something related but different from this thread (please email me at pace@utahhumanities.org) I came across this enticing thread. I’m glad that you’re talking about the need for soul in Mormon Lit. and Mormon Art. I’ve offered my take on this, primarily in an essay published in Dialogue, “God’s Army: Wiggle Room for the Mormon Soul” as well as in a book of essays (manuscript form) that talks about the need for soul in Mormon art and culture, and some emerging evidence of it from my point of view.

    Briefly, my point is that Mormon art is largely soul-less because there is a fusion of individual with the collective (individual to family, family/individual to institution). Soul emerges only when there is an appropriate space among one and the other. (In sound talk, resonance can only occur when there is space between vibrator and vibratee, right?) Soul emerges out of the space that is first provided, and that’s a scary proposition to some, because no one knows really what soul will look like, sound like, smell like…will “be.”

    Thus…soul-less art is often created by the LDS.

    I am reminded of when I lived in NYC and Marie Osmond took over from Faith Prince the lead role of Anna in the Broadway production of “The King and I.” Ms. Osmond seemed to bring that strange, ineffable inflection of art with her back across the plains from Utah to the Big Apple. Her performance was technically perfect, on cue, on pitch. She was beautiful to look at, and got every dance step right. But in the end, it was, like Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits…” “charmless and absolute” to quote a New Yorker article. There was no soul in her performance.

    A lot of Mormon literature strikes me that way as well. Thanks for your posts.

  19. Hi David! Thanks for reading my post.

    Curious to see if other attendees at Marie Osmond’s theater performance of Anna thought her “charmless and absolute,” I scanned reviews and visited one Broadway play forum. Reports of Marie’s performance are universally positive. Here’s a sampling:

    Following Hayley Mills’ restrained, stiff-upper-lippy perf, Osmond lends her widow-mother in the mid-19th-century Far East rather more open emotionality — she’s by turns droll, indignant, prim, sly, loyal and flirtatiously flustered. She also nails her upper-class Brit accent. More important, perhaps, Osmond’s soprano has developed into a fine instrument, one that does full justice to the spine-tingling beauty of “Hello, Young Lovers.” (Variety, April 28, 1998)

    As the current Anna Leonowens, the adventurous English widow who becomes governess/schoolteacher for the many children and wives of the King of Siam in the 1860s, Marie Osmond creates a terrific and liberated woman for our own times. She infuses the role with an open sort of American self-assured and liberated awareness that is both appealing and beguiling.

    Osmond struggles with her English accent, but we can forgive her. Above all, she is a woman with a mind of her own, one who is not afraid (as she sings “I Whistle a Happy Tune”) to stand up to the autocratic and stubborn King. She also has a tender and romantic side as she sings “Getting to Know You” to the royal wives and children and “Hello, Young Lovers” to star-crossed lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim. (All Business)

    On one message board I visited, people who saw her in The King and I described her as charismatic, saying such things as “she really blew me away,” and “to hear such a powerful voice come out of her really caught me off guard,” and “Girl’s got some stage presence.”

    Granted, none of the reviews I visited or any of the other opinions expressed described her performance as “soulful.” But none described her as “souless” either, and in general, her Broadway performances seem to have garnered high praise.

    I’ve not been able to keep up with my reading of Mormon lit to respond to your remarks that it also tends to be “charmless and absolute.” I suppose some of it could be–above, I certainly seem to think so, though if I remember correctly, I wrote this post mostly as a response to discussions I’d been following in the bloggernacle. I just took the subject wide to Mormon literature so it would fit AMV’s focus. Anyway, it makes sense that at least a proportion of Mormon lit would fall into the “soulless” category. Back when I read mystery novels voraciously, I found a certain percentage of the work produced in that genre “charmless and absolute,” not to mention vengeful. So I could generalize that experience to suppose some charmlessness, etc. might manifest itself in some a percentage of the most recently produced Mormon literature.

    Your point about soul requiring a–would it be right to say, “cultural?–space between the performer and his or her audience is interesting. My authority on the subject–“G Clef”–doesn’t have much to say on that point, I’m sorry to admit. But when I say, above, that …

    the artistic quality sometimes called “soulfulness” is about emotional pizzazz such as enables mortal beings to create outstanding expressions of the human experience that defy description. You simply have to be there.

    …I’m thinking of “be there” not just in the sense of being present at the performance but also in its meaning of being fully present, your senses, mind, heart, open and engaged in the experience. Both performer and audience wind up “having to be there.” To my thinking, an audience is as much a part of the performance as the artist is, and thus audience and performer mix it all up together in the space between them.

    I hope my post doesn’t seem to pick on Mormons, asserting that they especially suffer deficiencies in the “soul” department. I, for one, have problems feeling the charm Tom Cruise is said to exude and am unconvinced by his performances in any of his hero roles. Brad Pitt as Achilles? From where would he have pulled up the duende?

    I just meant to say in this post that the quality we call “soul” remains a viable prospect for Mormon art.

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