Friday, February 19, 2016


Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art piece is called #touchmysoul and has people talking about the soul. Labeouf invited people to call him at a special telephone number set up for this performance and “touch his soul.” No further information was given. It is an interesting concept. From the perspective of the collective that put together this performance piece, the soul seems to be the seat of emotions. What they are asking for is someone who will make them smile, give them goosebumps, or affect their emotions in some way. So, how does one touch another person’s soul? What is a soul? How do we touch the soul? Dallas Willard had this to say about the soul.

“While the brain has its role in emotions, intellect, and will, and while people’s bodies are essential, we must always remember that the person is the ultimate unit of analysis: you, me. Thought, feeling, action (involving the body, as well as relations to others) are ultimately dimensions of the person. And it is the soul that combines all the dimensions of the person to form one life. It is like a computer system, which runs an entire commercial operation.”[1]

“The soul is one non-physical dimension of the person. A human person is a non-physical (spiritual) entity that has an essential involvement with a particular physical body. The brain, then—a piece of meat that is of more than usual interest—is one part of the embodied dimension of the human person. It too is integrated by the soul into one life, along with all of the dimensions of the person (at least when all is well).”[2]

Augustine, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body."[3] 

In contemporary thinking, perhaps a helpful metaphor is to think of the soul as the operating system (OS) that organizes the actions and thoughts of a person. Many things will touch or affect the soul but some will affect more than others. We may experience a beautiful piece of music that affects the soul. Poetry, paintings, photography, a well-told story or movie may also touch the soul. Theoretically, if we touch a soul, that soul will be changed forever and will affect the operating system of the person. If the OS is changed, the whole being is changed.

This leads me to want to touch the soul of others. It causes me to ask questions about how I affect others (for good or bad) and causes me to want to have a positive influence on the souls of those around me. If I can “touch a soul” in a good way, I can make that person a better person and ultimately affect the world. What could be grander than that?

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