Original Title: Jen Rewrites Ten Thousand Years of Religious History.
More Original Title: Fine, Screw Up The Planet If You Want. It's Not Like You Won't Be Back.
About As Original A Title As You Can Possibly Get: Trust Me, I've Been a Dancing Dutchman, A Brave Cosmonaut, A Wily Nazi and a Crafty Trilobite.
Hang around a meditation hall long enough (I'm talking years, not hours), and strange things will start to happen to you. For one thing, you'll become calmer and more peaceful. No matter how hectic your day to day life may be, you'll relax more, laugh more, spend a little less time grinding the gears of your 2013 Spyder and a little more time watching the moon over White Rock Lake. You'll become a nicer person. You won't get as impatient when you're waiting in line, and you'll give people more of a break if they do something clueless, stupid, or (gasp) human. What's more, you'll start to give yourself more of a break. You might find yourself eating more nutritious food, getting more sleep, saying no to projects you're just not up to handling right now. It's hard to be nice to other people without being nice to yourself first.
But those are just the surface benefits. And believe me, they're awesome. All by themselves, they're certainly worth having, even if it's all you ever get out of meditating. For some people, it is. For other people, though, spooky things start to happen, too. You might notice that you're becoming more intuitive and less nervous. You know what people are going to say before they say it. Something happens to a family member who's miles away and you get a "something's wrong with Jack" feeling well before the news about Jack filters through the various phone lines and Web interfaces. Some people have little glimmers of enlightenment, too--short bursts of How Things Really Are.
The Japanese words are satori or kensho, both of which mean something like understanding and neither of which are at all descriptive enough of understanding to convey anything like understanding. What I'm talking about here is like a glimpse of the Grand Canyon after days spent in darkness. It's blindingly intense, but it's not like you can really get a grasp on the color of the sky or the shape of the mountain or even the posture of all of the rocks.
Do I speak from experience, you ask. Well, yes, actually. About five years ago, while I was at work, I got up and walked over to the printer, and while I was on my way everything just kind of stopped. Everything got sharper; colors were brighter, the air took on a crystalline quality and the people in the room -- there were people in the room -- sort of glowed a little. I remember thinking, "Oh. Is that all?" and then I started laughing because it was so ridiculous. Not the glowing and the sharp colors and the crystalline quality of the air -- like really cold air at the top of a mountain on the first run of a really good day of skiing, I guess you could say -- but that I was staring at it all that time, and I'd never noticed it before. I started laughing and it stopped happening. Nobody stared at me; they were used to my occasional weirdness by then. And it was a crummy job, anyway, but you get my point.
And some people start getting little glimpses of their past lives. Like me and the Dutchman.
The thing about reincarnation is that we have it just ever so slightly wrong. Not we, you and me we, but we, Buddhists. Buddhism grew out of Hinduism so Hindus must have it wrong, also. We've got this idea that we live this life, or these lives, and die and drift around for a while and then come back, personality essentially intact, in another body in the same world to do it all over again, each time learning more cool spiritual stuff until we achieve Nirvana, or become the Brahman, and don't have to do it anymore.
"I don't believe in reincarnation, and I didn't believe in it when I was a hamster." - Shane Ritchie
It's an attractive idea, but it's fundamentally flawed. Why? Because the whole idea of a separate, distinct personality is fundamentally flawed. That thing we call "I" doesn't really exist. It's a term of convenience, a thing we call ourselves because we think we're separate from our fellow beings when we're really not.
The Doctor: Imagine a great big soap bubble with one of those tiny bubbles on the outside.
Rory Williams: Okay.
The Doctor: Well, it's nothing like that.
See, the truth is that there's only one being. One consciousness. One life. And it's all of us, all the beings that ever existed and that exist now and that ever will exist in the future, from the smallest single-celled organisms to the biggest blue whale, on this planet and every other planet where there's life in every galaxy in the universe and every universe there is besides this one. In short, existence is, uh, really, really really BIG.
Chaplain: O Lord...
Congregation: O Lord...
Chaplain: ...Ooh, You are so big...
Congregation: ...ooh, You are so big...
Chaplain: ...So absolutely huge.
Congregation: ...So absolutely huge.
Chaplain: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Congregation: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
So what, then, are you seeing, if you have a glimpse of a "past life"? I mean, if that's not "you" living in another body, at another time, then what is it exactly?
My theory is this. We're already everybody all the time anyway. So there's no reason why we couldn't remember bits and pieces of other lives, whether they're "ours" or not. In fact, there's really no way to lay claim to "ours." If it's all one collective consciousness, how do you section off pieces? You can't. It's like Odo and his people, the drop becoming the ocean and the ocean becoming a drop. If you don't know who Odo is, ask somebody.
There are a lot of people who claim to have been, say, Napoleon in a past life. Maybe they're all telling the truth. Maybe Napoleon made quite an impression on the collective mind, and so we're drawn to it more than we would be to, say, a crafty trilobite in the Permian period. And there's no reason we can't visit people we're going to be in the future, as well as people we already are in other dimensions around this one. (Yep, I believe in other realities. In one of 'em I have a teenage son who plays football. And looks disturbingly like my one boyfriend. In another one, I moved to Albuquerque when I was twelve and--never mind.)
I was somebody else in the present once, just for a second. I was listening to my friend Brother ChiSing speak. Well, actually I was watching his hands. He has beautiful hands. So I was watching his hands and suddenly I was inside him, watching his hands from the other side. This lasted about a nanosecond and then I realized this was kind of rude of me, and the second I did I was back on the other other side, watching his hands. He really does have beautiful hands.
So that's my theory, Jack. I'm pretty sure I'm right. But if I'm not, we can always go back to the boring old "be good, come back as rich guy, be bad, come back as cockroach" theory of reincarnation. And with that, my friends, I wiggle my feelers, shake out my middle pair of legs and scuttle off into the night. Cheers, all.