The human soul weighs approximately 21 grams.
We believe this because, in 1907, Massachusetts doctor Duncan McDougall made it his mission to find proof of the soul’s existence by giving it weight. McDougall created a special bed that also served as a scale for his terminally ill patients. Then, he measured their weight before, during, and after death. His conclusion? Approximately 21 grams. That was the weight lifted from the body as soon as life left.
For those not well versed in metric measurements, 21 grams is about as much weight as a golf ball or a AA battery. Our entire afterlife, purpose, and spirit, wrapped up into something that can easily be carried in the palm of a child’s hand. That’s what McDougall was measuring. In a sense, I think that is what we are all measuring.
Of course, there are plenty of critiques to this soul weighing experiment. That tends to happen when we mix the spiritual with the scientific. “Not enough people were used in his test group!” people will say. Or, “McDougall’s measurements were crude at best.” Perhaps the most prominent response is this: “Why does a soul need a weight, at all?”
But to me the answer is simple: the soul needs weight so we can wonder what it’s made of.
In the French language, you do not say, “I miss you.” Instead, you say, “You are missing from me.”
It’s one of those technicalities of language that makes my heart beat faster. But also, evidence of what these 21 grams consist of: little pieces of those we love stored inside, and a feeling of emptiness when they are missing. A kiss, a blush, an eyelash on a cheek. Baby toes or a hand on your back in the morning. A laundry list of nicknames and the smell of warm skin and the song that makes your insides feel full. That’s what makes up the 21 grams.
I don’t have an experiment to prove my theory, and Dr. McDougall’s soul left this earth years ago, so he can’t provide any insight. But if I had to conduct an experiment it would look like this: find a human and put their feet in the ocean at night. Have them untie their hair and turn their face towards the stars and tell them to think of everyone they love most. Remind them about life: the beautiful and scary and the tiny cracks in between. And if at the moment they say they feel full… well then we will know what the soul is made of.
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Stay well. ILY.
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