Oprah seems to be making her way down the New Age aisle of the bookstore lately.
From The Secret to Ekhart Tolle and now to past lives (I do NOT want to see the show she does on colon cleansing!).
Have you ever heard someone talk about their past lives? Or heard someone tell another what they did when they were here before?
Have you noticed that however un-cool, un-accomplished, un-impressive or just un- we may be now, in the past we were all important, amazing and admirable.
We might be losers now, but when we were helping birth homo sapiens, we were good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, people liked us.
Go to a past-life workshop and you’ll meet Cleopatra! Go to another workshop the next week and you’ll meet, why could it be? another Cleopatra?! Another workshop, well, I’ll be… ANOTHER Queen of Egypt!
Why doesn’t anyone ever discover that in ancient Rome they were Vic the vomit bucket carrier, or in the Ming dynasty they were Chang, a soldier in the army who was known for being the fourteenth guy from the left… or was that fifteenth? I don’t know, but somewhere under twentieth.
Okay, sure, sometimes someone “recalls” a less-than-stellar lifetime. But even those were somehow important. “I died giving childbirth and saw the ephemeral nature of life… and that’s why I now have 37 cats in my one bedroom apartment.”
Those who had, oh, less than respectable careers always find a way to make them uber-special. Prostitute in ancient times? If this was you (and if this was you then, there are many who want to know you now), well you weren’t just giving handies underneath the steps of the Acropolis for 20 dinars… oh, no, you were doing SACRED SEXUALITY, or were the mistress to the Sultan of Somewhere-ville, or were Gaia and gave birth to the universe itself!
I can’t recall one past life story (and, living here in Boulder, people answer “What do you do?” with past-life stories) that sounded like, “Oh, I was an accountant in a small town. Nothing much happened. Died in my sleep.”
I’m just not sure why I would believe that under the unusual and often mind-bending conditions that are required for “remembering” past lives, I should assume I’m getting the facts straight. I know how crappy my memory is about things that did (or didn’t) happen to me in this life, let alone when I was a crystal cleaner in Atlantis. Hell, I rarely remember what I had for breakfast by the time I’m eating dinner. Oh, and I have a VIVID memory about having pneumonia when I was 10… which is only complicated by the fact that I DIDN’T HAVE IT!
I’ve also noticed that past-life readings tend to “reveal” causes from the past for events we are aware of now. Got a pain in your leg. Well, guess what? You were stabbed in the leg in the Peloponnesian War! Migranes? Killed with a shovel to the head by Gengis Khan.
But we don’t tend to hear stories that reveal something previously unknown to us in real-time. I haven’t seen any testimonials for past-live workshops where someone remembered where they hid all that Mayan gold, or buried the body, or etched “Michaelangelo was here” under David’s scrotum… and then found the gold, the body, and, well, where Michaelangelo had unknowingly been.
Now, look, I’m open to the possibility that we were here before and we will be here again. Could be. Granted, I’m not going to hide the Hot Wheels cars I’ve saved since I was 7 with the expectation I’ll pick them up again in 1000 years and become a millionaire on the reincarnation of eBay.
And I also won’t deny that some people find great solace in “discovering” that, say, they have “commitment issues” now because they were the daughter of the 4th concubine of the Prince of History-stan in the 12th century. I’ve seen it happen that a thought that sure FEELS like a memory triggers a great release, a stunning insight or even the eradication of some pain or illness.
But sugar pills are also very effective against pain and depression.
There’s a phenomenon I call “The Resonant Lie.” It’s something that FEELS right, that SEEMS true, that may even bring a big “AHA!” with it… but isn’t true. You can have a life-changing insight about your “Inner Child”… but there’s no such thing. It’s a concept. A sometimes-useful concept, but just a concept. (Admittedly, when my inner child wants chocolate, I spoil him rotten.)
My favorite Resonant Lie story is of a woman I knew whose father died and at the funeral said, “I’m at peace with the fact that Dad died, but I’m sad that I won’t be making new memories with him. I remember when I was a little girl and he taught me how to wash a car… I just wish we could make more sweet memories like that one.” The memory was very useful for her in many ways. Afterwards, her uncle approached her and said, “That was a very touching thing you said about your dad teaching you to wash the car… but *I* was the one who taught you how to wash the car.” SNAP!
I’m sure there’s more to be said, both about reincarnation (BTW, the title of this post refers to the definition of REINTARNATION: Being reborn as a redneck), and the Resonant Lie… but I’ll have to save that for another time because, in a past life, when I was Henry VIII’s court jester, I was punished for getting to the end of a story, and now I tend to leave things hanging and incomple…