I don’t believe we are possessed with a “soul” in the traditional Catholic or religious sense – a mysterious “life force” perhaps that animates us and gives us consciousness, but not an ethereal presence that floats off to heaven once we die.
But I’m not so sure that Andrew Olmsted wasn’t possessed of something that not too many of the rest of us have that may be – could be – what the poets and writers of scripture were thinking about when they invented the term.
Andy died in Iraq yesterday. And before I go on, I will post his thoughts written in anticipation of his death on the question of using his passing as a political football:
I do ask (not that I’m in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn’t a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don’t drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don’t cite my name as an example of someone’s life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I’d prefer that you did so.
That frees all of us to write and talk and remember Andy as the extraordinary individual he was rather than the way his life ended.
Except, like Hilzoy, I am unable to find the words. Her simple, eloquent farewell I shall shamelessly steal – in the finest tradition of blogging (something I’m sure Andy would appreciate):
Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny. The world has a horrible hole in it that nothing can fill. I’m glad Andy—generous as always—wrote something for me to publish now, since I have no words at all. Beyond: Andy, I will miss you.
I got to know Andy through his all too brief participation in The Watchers Council. And, of course, through his writing. His occasional emails to me were always incisive and funny. His courtesy and kindness always appreciated.
Please read his entire posthumous post. If you knew Andy at all you will have trouble getting through it. But if Andy does have a soul, it is locked up in that last post – as he intended – so that we can visit him whenever we want and reflect on a life that may have been interrupted but was nevertheless lived with a fullness the rest of us should envy.