The Soul Wrestles Free.


The body houses all. Its organs are not capable to dividing the precious and vile. The skin cannot filter out flaws, cannot leave behind what is crystalline and expel what is already breaking. This flesh, this blood, these limbs, each space is stretched taut with the gore and the glory of our souls.

It betrays us, the body, with its strange aptitude for seeming unsullied, during the long years it often takes for signs of our ailing to reach its surface. And when the body is lithe and graceful, adorned in glittering raiment, smooth-skinned and diamond-eyed, capable of pushing otherworldly song through the chords in its throat, and constantly erupting with laughter, it is downright deceptive. It is a projector, casting aspersions on our concerns and flickering out a performance that fools us all. I am fine, it says. I have overcome all that’s ugly inside me. I am exactly what you hope that I’ll be.

The body is wrong. But we who do not live within it can’t accept that. Even when it turns on the soul, so damaged and tortured inside it, we say: I still see the woman of old. All she needs is a touch of rest, a heart-healthy diet, a better life partner. All she needs is the right producer, the right vocal coach, a 12-step refresher course. This delusion is easy, when the body is as beautiful and the voice as iconic as hers. There is a long way to wither, to fall.

The body works feverishly to convince itself–and by extension, us–that it will have as many chances as it needs to regenerate all that erodes.

It does not respect mortality like the soul does. It does not resign itself, first to the necessity of help, nor to the futility of seeking help simply because it’s expected. All the body wants is to go back, to be regarded as the gorgeous prewar house it was before the wreckage. It gathers what’s left of the gild on its throat, its slip of burnished skin (now so translucent, we cannot deny the damage below it), its unerring, courageous smile, and it prostrates itself before parties and makes valiant attempts to steal our breath with a note.

What it does not know is that the soul is bearing down and bringing her dignity out of her, pulling her love and her legacy, her impossible pain and fragility, and her marvelous, bottomless grace apart from this earthen casing that could scarcely ever contain it.

The soul has little need to hide what ails it and comprehends that when the body falls away, most of who she is will be in open view. It shies neither from adulation or assessment, unfurls itself for scrutiny, shifts its hips and shimmies, saying, Honey, if ever there were a case of the good overshadowing bad, it’s mine.

And she sails off like comet, shedding debris in all of her glory.

7 responses to “The Soul Wrestles Free.”

  1. This is such a beautiful tribute to Whitney. The body is a temporary shell. The soul lives forever. Her musical legacy lives forever.

  2. It was a little hard for me to read this without feeling as though I’d tear up again. Why do we feel so connected to those we’ve grown up listening to musically? Those who have shone light on our lives when we needed it most, not really recognizing it then, but pulling forth the impact of their presence? This is beautifully written and conjured up feelings of remembrance I’m glad I’ll always have of Whitney.

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