© Jay Harden
That little Georgia town where I was born was founded as an experiment in Civil War reconciliation between veterans on both sides. I grew up at 309 South Lee Street, so I am a rebel - but not as you imagine. I am a rebel of the Calvin kind to the Hobbes of my soul.
Many guys like me still miss the antics of those comic strip characters. Fewer men, especially southern men, sit around thinking about Hobbes and their soul, but now I do. What with the millennium and all that followed, I’ve been thinking about my soul a lot.
I thought I knew what my soul was from what I was taught in Sunday School. But the more I re-read Calvin, my adopted alter ego, the more I understand the insights of Hobbes, his faithful and wise stuffed tiger. Hobbes now helps me understand my soul and its value. I see it as a safe haven for the real me, my timeless place when I can care for myself, a place without judgment and the suffering it causes, a place I cherish now more than ever in these uncertain times.
I can’t give all the credit to Hobbes, only the direction he gave me to look. When something is heavy on my mind, related things seem to appear in my real life. It happened that way with this soul thing.
Soul recognition: that’s what my wife said the course was called. Dumb name, I thought - but I didn’t say anything right off. It’s an old story of mine: think twice before responding to a woman. A workshop in North Carolina, she said. Did I want to attend with her? Well, Hobbes would have been intrigued.
Now I wanted to support my bride. She is one of those new age women that give hope to us anachronistic guys and, besides, I simply adore her. More than that, I trust her. The fact that she was inviting me seemed pretty thoughtful. Anyway, the house was beginning to feel confining and I was ready to get out of Atlanta for a weekend. So I said sure, and before I could reconsider we had un-refundable tickets.
I felt sandbagged when it turned out I was the only man attending. Just seventeen women and me. These were not ordinary women either. They were gorgeous, graceful goddesses and I was, to put it kindly, overwhelmed. I had never seen such a group. It was their eyes - clear and intelligent, sparkling and comfortable, deep and calm. And not a single one had an agenda.
Something else was up with these women that was very hard to describe. A clean feeling permeated the workshop, a palpable kind of creative energy holding us all together that my objective male mind could not fully encompass. Inexorably I became a part of that field.
What happened to me during my particular soul experience was unique. Hobbes would probably say it was a sacred meeting with my real tiger, a special kind of introduction to myself. There were no words in the process. The women skillfully used that energy to keep me out of my head - perhaps that was the secret - and lead me, well, to see my soul, the best part of me, a part I had never met. Later reflection produced some profound, unexpected realizations for me.
Too many men in this world have never been loved by a woman. Sadly, that is a great loss for our planet. Many men, I hope, have known a woman’s love. But far fewer men in this world have known the unconditional love of a woman. I was lucky enough to be one of them. But what I have never known (and I don’t know any men who have) is the unconditional love of women. That is, until now.
These women, all seventeen, listened and heard me, laughed with me, saw me, and honored me as the man I am. It was a beautiful, humbling, and sacred experience that inevitably opened a part of me long hidden from myself and everyone else. I saw my true nature, and so did they. Every man should be so lucky. I don’t know how it worked, and I don’t care. It turns out I am an all right guy.
Hobbes would tell you that I had issues with the female gender. I believed that feminists were misguided in trying to be like men. I thought we should celebrate our differences instead. But now I know there is another possibility – that men and women can celebrate their similarities, which are more important than the outer differences of appearance, belief, and history. The truth is we are all great souls and that fact links us together wherever we are. Nothing else really matters.
If Hobbes still talked to Calvin today, I think he would say something like this, only in tiger-ese.
Our souls all share a spiritual DNA. So why would I fight my own DNA? I was not created to destroy myself. And why would I fight you who carry that same spiritual connection? If we all understand this, then war is history. This common energy of our souls is the one thing that unites us all. And it can save us all, too.
Tell us Hobbes, we miss you!