Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

If Not Resurrection or Reincarnation, What?

Originally posted on December 25, 2012

A friend of mine wrote about “past lives” and this stimulated my thinking about other possibilities:

One possibility—this is of course rank speculation—is that “we” dissolve into the Great Becoming-ness, having contributed our lives to that process, adding a little creativity here, posing a bit of a problem there, perhaps giving to the becoming-ness of children and grandchildren, directly or indirectly. Weeds grow too. So even our mistakes and blind spots have served as challenges to the growth of some others. A percentage of our efforts have turned sour, and so it is for everyone. Get over it. Being guilty when it’s way too late does not further. Many of our efforts have had positive effects far beyond our knowing about them, sometimes directly, often more indirectly. Perhaps we brightened the day of someone who then brightened the day of someone who did something really good because of that slight encouragement or inspiration. It happens that way a lot.

Our efforts are often aggregate: Not just in voting—that one vote that made the difference—, but also in the force of a trend, a movement, in keeping going, the energy of a collective: These streams have their own dynamic thrust. Sometimes there needs to be six waves of a trend before it builds enough energy to break through and we’ve only been part of the second wave. We must not be disheartened. Have faith in the ideal and let go—there’s a whole lot more going on that you have any control over, or that we could ever begin to know or understand.

After all, I as “me” with my personal telephone number, address, facial features, body, identity— do “I” need to last forever? Wouldn’t that get boring? Might much of the me-ness dissolve and it would be best for all a century from now? But part of me wants to live on! (I’ve been deeply programmed to cling to life, perhaps almost above all.) Well, let’s look at that: There are several parts to that sentence. The biggest is “want” as in “desire.” Although your want seems vivid enough, is it really more valid than when you were a child and you really craved that “toy” that your momma wouldn’t buy for you?

The other key to that line, “I want to live on” is the illusion of “I.” I don’t doubt that it feels really real to you, and it certainly does to me, my ‘I,’— but then again the world really seems flat and it doesn’t seem like the earth goes around the sun—it seems the other way. Seeming is a powerful illusion, and the fact—truly a fact—is that our experience is laced by illusions: Our pace is normal and everything else is too fast or slow. To us air seems empty, to a butterfly, it’s more like water. It doesn’t seem as if a thousand variables are relative but they are. Why should the idea that “I” am be less illusory.

As for reincarnation, what about the following alternatives: When we die part of our personality continues and if called upon—and only if called upon—enters the psyche as one of many other components in a rebirth; or influences others as an angel. Thus a widow may experience vividly the presence of her husband.

What if the spirit does hang around for a few years or even decades but then fades; the less you’re remembered, the more “you” fade. What if that’s okay? Hey, no sweat. What if there are other adventures to be had? And what if you don’t need to feel that you’re the same person as before in order to enjoy?

Or, really, what is so horrible about sleeping and not being? And knowing that others are doing lots of being and discovering, stumbling and fussing and fighting? What if there’s a trade-off? You don’t get to live in the future combined with the recognition that it’s highly possible that you as you would hate living in the future. It would be hell! You have absorbed far too many of the norms of your own worldview and era to make the adjustment without great pain, and you deceive yourself in thinking it would be fun and easy. I mean, even the prospect of moving to another country isn’t fun for lots of people!

And so forth. Oh, the problems of the theory of reincarnation are many. And the pay-off, that in some diluted, stripped-down, unspoken way “you” would be re-born and it would be less painful than if you were not reborn—that’s appealing—well, maybe, but perhaps we would need to break it down: No magical thinking here: What specifically would you be able to let go of and still preserve your essential self? So that’s my thinking on this myth so far. Intelligent comments are welcome.

One Response to “If Not Resurrection or Reincarnation, What?”

  • George Flynn says:

    It puzzles me that the me-ness of me I are the processes of my axons and various other neural accouterments that are forged by my heredity and experience. The resultant “George Flynn” seems more like a random outcome than an expression of some lasting statement of my humanity. Meanwhile let’s squeeze some fun out of life.

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