A chunk of limestone does not seek the growth of another being. Neither does a turnip. As far as we can tell, minerals and vegetables have no drive to seek the growth and preservation of others. The cocker spaniel, on the other hand, does exhibit this drive. She cares for and protects beings outside her own scope of concern. Humans take this trait to even more sophisticated levels.
If you were asked, “Does a rock have a soul? Does a turnip? A cocker spaniel? A human?”, what would you say?
Mihalyi Csikzentmahalyi, the author of the book Flow, has an opinion on this. “No matter how complex a system is, we judge it as having no soul if all its energies are devoted merely to keeping itself alive and growing. We attribute soul to those entities that use some portion of their energy not only for their own sake but to make contact with other beings and care for them.”
With this thought in mind, one could argue that the cocker spaniel has a bigger soul than the heartless lawyer who devotes all his energies to serving himself.
The bigger the soul – the more it seeks to extend itself to invest in the highest good of another. In short, the soul’s stature is measured by the yardstick of love.
In a very real sense, love is the metric of maturity. Got a soul? How big is it? You can tell by the amount of energy you expend seeking the highest good of others – the drive to seek the growth and preservation of an ever-broadening community. This journey of maturity started when you began to share toys with other toddlers. It continued with your friends as you protected them in the schoolyard. It progressed when you protected a colleague’s reputation at work. Perhaps you’ll get married and have children. That part of the journey will give you millions of opportunities to grow your soul. The journey includes all your dealings with your community, and your entire world.
Here’s my definition for love at this point in my journey: Love is extending yourself to invest in someone’s highest good.
Breaking apart this definition will provide you with a choicepoint many times a day: Will I extend myself? This can mean sacrifice, stress, stretching and pain. To invest. This part requires risk. You take time, energy or money that’s in your hand as a for sure thing and you spend it on someone else in the hopes that good will come out of the investment. In someone’s highest good. This part requires relationship and conversation. A person’s highest good is not tattooed on their forehead. Not only that, most people aren’t crystal clear themselves, about what the highest good is for them. We all have blindspots and are a little bit unaware of what’s best for us. This is a discovery process: seeking to co-explore what someone’s true potential is and how you can help them fulfill it.
Animal, vegetable, mineral – the choice is yours every day.
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
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