Monday, March 18, 2013
Let's Go Find Some Other Lives
In college I wasn’t that interested in Calculus or Geology, but I got into a lot of other topics, e.g., UFOs, Bigfoot, mental telepathy, the Loch Ness monster, etc. I think I was tired of everyday reality and eager to move on to more extraordinary things. Reincarnation held particular appeal. Though I’d already dismissed notions of Heaven, Hell, and the after-life, the idea that people can return after death in new bodily forms held a certain fascination. However, as soon as I went to graduate school I stopped thinking about all these things. Then when I turned 65 the notion of reincarnation suddenly reappeared. That could have been because of panic about my mortality, but I prefer to think I suddenly had more leisure time to explore life’s deep mysteries.
Reincarnation, of course, is more of an Eastern notion. In Hinduism, one's soul is believed to move on to a new existence after the body's death. The quality of one’s rebirth depends on their karma (essentially the sum total of one’s past moral conduct, good or bad). Good deeds result in a higher caste and a better next life; bad deeds, to a crummier life. The cycle of death and rebirth goes on forever unless the soul is released through major effort, mainly by devout Buddhists or saints who abandon all worldly desires and attain a state of oneness with all of existence. (2)
About 22% of Europeans and 20% of Americans believe in reincarnation (4). According to a CBS news poll, 10% of Americans say that they have been in touch with one or more of their past lives. (1) Shirley MacLaine is one of the best-known devotees, having returned to her earlier lives as a harem girl, an entertainer, and a Muslim gypsy girl. (3) When I found out that millions of people have had such experiences, I got depressed because I’ve never been in touch with a single past life. Then I learned that you can do this by paying $139 at a reincarnation convention, getting hypnotized, and undergoing age regression. I didn’t want to pay the $139, but I discovered how to accomplish the same results at home for practically nothing. Basically, last Friday night I took a sleeping pill and a shot of Canadian whiskey and started meditating in front of my computer. Once I’d reached a state of complete bodily relaxation, I started going back in my mind to earlier stages of life. I worked my way quickly through the ups and downs of my work life, then lingered for a while on my dissertation orals and my wedding day. College and high school whizzed by, and I jumped all the way back to early memories of playing with neighborhood kids. When I reached my third birthday, I blacked out for a while. Then, as I slowly regained consciousness, I became vividly aware of my identity as Sven Ljungberg, an 1890’s schoolteacher in rural Sweden. I looked in the mirror and saw my gaunt face and bloodshot eyes. I was married to Ulrika, a red-haired woman with the disposition of a fishwife, and we lived in a log house with a thatched roof and our seven squabbling children. I taught dim-witted pupils in a one-room schoolhouse during the day, and I imbibed a quart of vodka each night to escape the horrors of my waking life. Ultimately I got lost in a blinding snowstorm with my sled dog, Gnurlha, and we both froze to death.
Elated by my discoveries and still in my trance state, I shifted my attention to various family members. I quickly discovered that Katja had formerly been a duchess in Queen Victoria’s Buckingham Palace court. My sister-in-law Ami was a member of Gertrude Stein’s literary circle in 1920’s Paris, and my brother-in-law David was a silent film director who specialized in vampire movies. I was amazed that my sister Vicki had actually starred in David’s films as a vampire love interest. My brothers Peter and Steven were a railroad tycoon and a riverboat gambler respectively. My brother-in-law George was a beloved actor in the Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side. J and K were adventurers who had navigated the Amazon and ridden a dog sled to the South Pole.
Now that I have indisputable proof that reincarnation is real, I’m less anxious about what the future holds. However, I am nervous about the condition of my karma. When I add them up, I think my bad deeds in my life so far outweigh the good, and that could mean that I’ll come back as a destitute person or even a lizard. I still have some time left, but I’m going to have to pack about a dozen good deeds into every day if I’m going to alter my fate. That’s a lot. I’m going to start right this minute by cleaning up the sink and taking the sheepdogs out for a good hike. Wish me luck and good karma to us all.
SOURCES: (1) www.cbs.news.com, “Reincarnation: Believing in second chances”; (2) www.infoplease.com, "transmigration of souls"; (3) www.oprah.com, “Shirley MacLaine’s past lives”; (4) www.wikipedia.org, “Reincarnation”
-Gayle C-L (3-18): David, I always wish you luck and great karma !! You should probably come back as a great leader, philosopher,, maybe even F Scott Fitzgerald.. Yes.. Lots of love.. G
-Jennifer M (3-18): Very exciting discoveries!
-Donna D (3-18): such a hoot i have a to do list you could work on to wrack up good deeds
-Linda C (3-18): You have me convinced, will try it and report my findings.