Soul Meets Body

Soul Meets Body

If they knew how big they’d become on the music scene, lead singer Ben Gibbard of the band “Death Cab for Cutie” once confessed, they would’ve thought twice about picking that obscure of a name. In these days of an even deeper obscurity over what gender we identify as, I’d like to reflect on one of my favorite DCFC’s songs “Soul Meets Body.” From their album, Codes and Keys, released in May 2011, “Soul Meets Body” soars as an achingly beautiful secular song with echoes of the original plan of God for humanity.

I want to live where soul meets body

And let the sun wrap its arms around me and

Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing

And feel,

Feel what its like to be new

Death Cab for Cutie

I always thrill at the hearing of songs like this in popular music from secular bands. It points to that universal thirst for a harmony between flesh and spirit that can be found everywhere, in everything. Musicians today are scratching out their notes in the cynicism of a post-Christian age. An age with scandals and hypocrisy, and even radical doubts and attacks on not only God’s identity but now our very own. In this quest for meaning, I find a certain raw sincerity in Death Cab for Cutie (DCFC). It shows us that nothing can snuff out the desire for the truth about God and man, not even a poor first experience of religion, or the scandalous example of some believers.

A wound from lead singer Gibbard’s past shaped his vision of the Catholic faith he was raised in. It’s revealed in the lyrics of the song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”:

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule

I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black

And I held my tongue as she told me

“Son, fear is the heart of love”. So I never went back.

DCFC

This experience is beyond tragic, since we know St. John tells us “perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18) The wounds of an earthly father can change our view of the Heavenly Father. The sins of a school master can alter our knowing the love of the Divine Master. I wonder how effective this teaching of fear of punishment might be for the young as an introduction to God. Yet it seems to be a part of our pedagogy, individually and universally. Dr. Karl Stern, a Jewish psychoanalyst who converted to Catholicism once wrote:

The child receives, even before any formal moral training, a kind of ‘natural’ pre-moral formation. Its first encounter with a world of regulations is predominantly negative. The world of the orbidden precedes the world of the ideal. The very first regulatory education, such as training for order and cleanliness, warning against the handling of breakable objects and so on, may signify to the child an initiation into dread. Even under the most favorable circumstances the child gets to know the ‘Don’t’ associated with the first notion of punishment and reward, of retaliation and pardon, before a positive ideal, a ‘Do!’, can develop… It is the same in the child’s life as in the history of human society. Something analogous also exists on the level of the historical drama of salvation.

Stern, Flight from Woman, 1965

Now ponder this thought of Pope Benedict XVI:”Our first experience of God is so important; we either experience Him as the police guard ready to punish or as creative love that awaits.” Creative love is what we long for, and in fact it’s what God wants to pour out over our hearts through the Church’s sacraments. Sadly for many of us, we are fallen human beings and the truth can be the flow of truth can be obstructed or limited. But that’s our fallen human nature, not the Divine water of grace. Gibbard sings that he “never went back” to the Catholic Church. But not going back doesn’t mean he’s not in some way moving forward in his quest for the truth of who we are. The French philosopher Simone Weil wrote that even when we run away from Christ, if it’s toward what we consider true, we run in fact straight into His arms!

Now away from the personal to the more culturally expansive seeking for healing in our world today. Our gender dysphoric age gives us an ever-expanding list of letters with which to identify – LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM and the list goes on, becoming every day increasingly more and more obfuscating. Recall Jesus asking the possessed man his name and the man replied “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” (Mark 5:9) This fracturing of our personhood, soul from body, is nothing new. It’s simply an attempt to cloak our ever present wound; the age-old identity crisis we’ve suffered from since the Fall in Eden.

We are a splintered race, racing along, seeking reunion, and communion, of our hearts, minds, and bodies. Our identity has been disintegrated and our hearts dispossessed of the integral truth of what it means to be human, soul and body. But we must keep digging, seeking our original face. And we do this together as the song sings, for we need a reunion of not only soul and body, but of person to person, and God and humanity.

And I cannot guess what we’ll discover

When we turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels

But I know our filthy hands can wash one another’s

And not one speck will remain.

DCFC

Listening to the ache for meaning can itself reveal to us the meaning. If we listen to the Music that made the world and follow those first two notes, the masculine and the feminine, that first came together to form the song that is our own personal life, our story, we see, hear and experience our place in the Song. The Song is the vocation of the human person, synthesized in St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio: “God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” (FC, 11)  Let’s keep going, aching, coming to terms with the truth that we are made for the other.

Ultimately, our utterances must keep going up, into that Perfect Word Who encompasses and surrounds and unites all of us! In His Love that satisfies that original harmony between soul and body, the spiritual and the material, man and woman, and all of humanity is realized. There is a Creative Love that awaits in the Heart of Jesus, in the ocean of His mercy. Yes, even despite the oil spills of humanity’s sins, He’ll wash one another in this mercy, “and not one speck will remain.”

And I do believe it’s true

That there are roads left in both of our shoes

But if the silence takes you

Then I hope it takes me too.

So brown eyes I hold you near

‘Cause you’re the only song I want to hear

A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere…

Where soul meets body…

DCFC