Connected upward, yet pulled downward.
That is the battle within your soul.
But it’s for a purpose. And it’s good.
© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.
[Combat Zone is the foundational post for soul basics. The original article was created/posted in 2009, but for easier reading divided into four posts in 2020. Judaic scripture number references.]
GET THE SOUL BASICS FIRST. READ PARTS 1-3. START HERE: COMBAT ZONE: PART 1—YOUR SOUL
READING TIME: 4 MINUTES
Life has its ragged edges. The God-breathed soul in its earth-tethered body has a job to do. But things can get messed up, turned upside down, or totally d-e-r-a-i-l-e-d.
Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini may not have been thinking about the soul-body dynamic when he made Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria), but there is a parallel nonetheless.
Fellini’s 1958 film is hauntingly compelling, a gritty window into the human condition. Protagonist Cabiria, a tragic-comedic, quirky personality wiggles into your heart, in the raw places. The uncomfortably-yet-so-real places we know but too often pushed down.
She is a . . .
who wants to break loose of herself.
She’s a lady of the night, but her true self— her soul’s identity—longs to be freed. Her plight could just as easily be yours, mine, or anyone else’s on the planet. After all, there are trenches and stench holes even in the finest high places and people.
Her life is a series of abuse, being used, deceived, unloved, lost, and nearly killed (twice) for her money. From the beginning when her boyfriend pushes her into a lake and steals her purse to being set up and ridiculed at a magic show and on to the cruelest betrayal of a would-be fiancé, Cabiria streetwalks for her profession while her soul walks the inner streets of its journey, with slowly unfolding realizations.
Compared to her cohorts, there’s something distinctly different about Cabiria. They’re contently oblivious to their boxed-in existence. Not her. She’s clothed in an unexpected resilience. Dares to hope. Dares to find ways to be free from the civil war within and around her.
Swept along the Roman religious processional—priests, candle-carrying altar boys in garb, followed by suit-clad men and penitent, scarf- covered women drudging behind on their knees—Cabiria seeks religion as a cure and cries out for a miracle in her default, Roman Catholic style.
She stands, her face painful, nearly angelic, amid the lonely, the crippled, the children, the women and men, the poor, the forgotten.
But the next day, she’s sitting with a few others on the processional grounds. Scattered debris surrounds her, the aftermath of the previous evening’s religious fervor. A musician is strumming his guitar. Teens are playing ball. Her friends are eating, drinking, dancing. The reality crashes in on her.
We haven’t changed.
We’re all the same as before, just like the cripple.
—Nights of Cabiria, Fellini film
Mise-en-Scène. Let’s look at the real elements in her story. Which, in the big-picture view, are not all that different from yours or mine on any given day.
She is breathed by God, yet her nefesh, one of three soul nuances, clings to the ways of her world-tethered body and follows it down spiritually deserted corridors—instead of clinging to Him. Over time, spiritual darkness consumes her soul, causing a spiritual chasm. Her soul can’t breathe or flow as it was designed to do. Despite her religious attempts, a real transformation, that coming-full-on-to-God moment in her soul, isn’t happening. She’s still looking for something spiritual amidst something physical.
So when the cripple isn’t healed and her friends return to their worldly ways . . . hope is MIA, nowhere to be found. And her soul is right where it was before, unable to breathe in and breathe out the truth of God.
CABIRIA’S SOUL MOMENT
The invisible iron bars of Cabiria’s physical slave market pierce through her soul-body. She dreams of freedom, but is incarcerated emotionally and spiritually wherever she goes.
Her cries upward are genuine. But the earthbound religious exercises leave her chained, her soul in bondage. There is only One who can deliver her, from the inside out. Will He step in, remove the veil, awaken her soul, letting her see His beauty, sparking a deep-calling-to-deeep type of miracle?
We can all pretend to be cynical and scheming . . .
but when we’re faced with purity and innocence,
￼￼￼￼the cynical mask drops off and all that is best in us awakens.
—Nights of Cabiria, Fellini film
Toward the end of the film, Cabiria is manipulated and discarded yet again, left with mutilated expectations.
Her soul hits ground zero. Physically, she collapses on an elevated drop-off, deep waters below. All a deft portrait of her soul-life journey.
But then . . . a stirring. Emptied, teary-eyed, she pulls herself up and starts to walk through the wooded area.
Children and young people come out and walk with her, singing, playing music, happy, filled with life.
And hope. A different level of hope seen through a new soul lens.
A mascara-stained tear rests under one eye—and slowly her visage morphs. She looks around her and sees new life bursting from the young people and music. It’s then that she turns to gaze into the camera for a few seconds.
She’s showing us something—something deeper that’s rising from the nuances of her soul.
Saddened eyes filled with a thousand stories.
Battle-scarred emotions . . . her spirit (Soul Nuance, ruach in Hebrew) daring to stand.
Humbled soul . . . her previously self-driven life force (Soul Nuance, nefesh in Hebrew) finally beginning to remove itself from the worldly wanderings and tasting the “rest” within.
Then a frail smile breaks through . . . her breath of God, attached to Him (Soul Nuance, neshama in Hebrew) kindles her inner soul lamp.
And maybe . . . hope. The kind that can only come from the One who is truth, who gives abundant life the way He designed.