Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

Soul for Sale on eBay

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A guy from Des Moines, Iowa, was selling his soul on eBay, opening bid 99 cents. Bidding was up to $400 before eBay officials pulled the auction from the site. What I like is the guy's modest original price, which is about right in a sellers' market. About 150 years ago, when Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles, the going price was quite high, involving eternal love and riches. Back then, people sold their bodies and time for nearly nothing, but the church made sure that they kept their souls. Without it, they had nothing, or they might have revolted more than they did. When bodies and time became more valuable, thanks to people who revolted anyway, the soul declined in value and a lot of people quit believing in it. After that, the transaction became banal: the Devil got cautious and wouldn't buy souls from anyone who didn't believe in them. Understandably. A soul not believed in is non-existent. Thus, there were fewer souls and a more cautious Devil, and the market shrank, despite some temporary news that dead bodies weighed 3 ounces less than live ones, the difference being soul. That proved to be bunkum, but souls didn't go away just because science couldn't find them. Artists located something called "duende," a passionate fire that was the source of creation. Musicians tapped the soul for "soul music," and various inexplicable marvels were accounted for by their having "soul." Both personal and collective souls continued haunting the official materialism of the last century, and one might argue that their suppression led to bursts of irrationality, including the two big wars. Far from becoming extinct, the soul moved from Mephistophelean preciousness to just about any place where the physical world quit making sense. Now, instead of a scarcity of soul, there is an excess of it. Surplus is no better for the market than scarcity, though. Who were the bidders for the Des Moiner's soul? What did they think they were getting? If they were true devils, they got the joke, but would they put up cash? I think that the bidders were would-be devils: they were playing at it just like the guy from Des Moines was. Monopoly money. No trades go on in the soul market these days. The devils get so many offers they now pay people to keep them. We are drowning in soul.

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