Thursday, November 29, 2012
I still remember the first time I heard this phrase. I had been active in a social organization some time, and an older gentlemen, older than me by several years, and also with more service time, came up to me and asked for how long I had been involved, and I told him.
He responded that he was surprised I didn’t have more service time myself because I generally seemed like such an “old soul.”
Well, I’ve been thinking about that phrase more again recently.
Are there things such as “old souls,” and what do different people mean by that?
Now, regular readers of my pages know that I’m a secularist and a metaphysical naturalist. So, unlike some people, my definition of what might constitute an “old soul” is not based on someone being wise beyond his or her years due to particular lessons they learned in a past life, how much in general they remember from a past life, or anything similar. Nor, contra a religion like Mormonism, do I believe it’s because my soul had a special place on the planet Kolob. Nor, Scientologists, do I believe I have a soul with special connections to the Thetans. Nor, western monotheists, do I believe god specially smiled on my soul in the womb or whatever.
Of course, I don’t believe we have “souls.” We have personalities, generated by our genes causing brain development, which then produces a mind that interacts with the external world and further develops based on such interaction.
Nonetheless, metaphysically denatured, I do believe in the idea of “old souls.”
Reflecting back, I was one early in life.
In my religious household, where as a preacher’s kid, I and my siblings were going to Sunday school and church every week, by the time I was 8 or 9, I didn’t want to sit in Sunday school with the other kids my age. I wanted to be in the adult bible studies class.
Now, why that is, is a good question.
In my particular case, I believe life experiences were partly the issue. By the time I was that age, I was already “aged,” hurt and cut more by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” than the typical American kid in a middle-class family. I had no real friends, only acquaintances. My No. 1 love was reading nonfiction, at several grade levels above my own. So, of course I had no interest in being with kids my age.
That said, the reading skills were not “outrageous fortune,” but rather a genetic gift. Also largely in my genes, whether gift or not, was my tendency toward introversion. A bit of tendency toward introspection was already accompanying that.
The thought about old souls, and how they may be formed and developed, leads to several additional questions.
First, given the background of “old souls” like me … how reliable of a marker is this for the possibility of some sort of child abuse, bullying by peers or both?
Second, how do we better nurture childhood old souls? And adult old souls, for that matter?
Third, how do genes contribute toward this, and in what ways? Are their genes that code for what we would call “maturity”? Or “sobriety,” broadly used?
Fourth, to what degree do old soul types overlap with highly sensitive personality types?
In an America of 315 million and counting, where many old souls may be introverted at times, even “retiring” at times, how do we get them, or us, more involved?