Let’s talk about death, shall we?
Or rather, let’s talk about what happens after death.
After death? you might be asking.
What possibly happens after death?
You might be thinking that, after death, it’s all white clouds, halos, robes, wings and strumming harps. As Guster says about heaven in a song on its latest album, Evermotion, “Just people hanging out forever.”
Or you might be thinking that after death is…well…nothing. The end. Sayonara. Close credits and cut! I’ll have one endless dirt nap, with a side of decomposition.
Any of these could be right. All of them could be right. None of them could be right. I mean, who am I to say what happens after death? I haven’t been there, done that or even gotten the T-shirt.
But belief, man. Belief is what it’s all about. I think belief drives much more of the reality train, at least on an individual level, than we’re sometimes willing to acknowledge. Physics is constantly showing us that observation (a form of belief, in my book anyway) in some way establishes reality. And with physics also showing us that there are multiple dimensions, multiple realities, it’s certainly possible that everyone is right in their beliefs…and everyone is simultaneously just as wrong.
Welcome, Mr. Schrodinger! How’s the cat? Dead, you say? Hmmm…
That all being said, this posting will be more heavily weighted toward my belief. I mean, to be fair, it’s my blog. You may not agree with what I say one scintilla. You may find the following ramblings run far contrary to what you believe. S’ok! Really. Believe what you want. It’s a free country, and a wide, weird, rambling cosmos. Stranger things, my dear Horatio!
Thus ends the apologia. Let’s press on, shall we?
So, each of the authors of stories in the wonderful Grey Matter Press anthology Death’s Realm were given a choice of subjects to expound on during this blog tour. I chose reincarnation, because…well…reasons
Reincarnation is the supposition that when we die, after some amount of time spent doing something in some mysterious dimension, we come back into another body, live another life, most of the time completely unaware of the previous life…or (how’s this for mind blowing?) lives.
In other words, each of us, if this belief is true, has lived and died many times over the course of human history, doffing persona with all of the aplomb of changing our underpants. Perhaps you were once in charge of the pharaoh’s loo. Or maybe you were a peasant sans culottes in Revolutionary France. A Mongol doin’ the Steppes. Or perhaps an Aztec warlord knockin’ ’em dead for the sun. Who knows?
I find this belief fascinating, and I mean really fascinating.
First of all, it jibes nicely with my spiritual beliefs as a man in the last third of his life. I don’t say “religious” beliefs, because—and I don’t mean to offend anyone here—I have none. I was raised Catholic, as were my parents, and pretty much my entire family. But over the decades, through various vicissitudes of life and a thorough studying of both my Catholic faith and the Bible, I no longer consider myself Christian much less Catholic.
Interestingly enough, William Peter Blatty, a devout Catholic and author of the iconic The Exorcist, was recently interviewed by The Washington Post about his new book (at 87 years old!) Finding Peter. The book recounts Blatty’s belief that his dead son is haunting him…literally…sending messages back to his dad that he’s alive and is okay. Blatty also says that he’s a believer in reincarnation, and that, indeed, the Catholic faith long ago once supported this idea. So, a belief in reincarnation doesn’t necessarily have to run contrary to your religion. Go here to read the interview.
That out of the way, we’re taking reincarnation.
I have developed, I guess, what is more of a Buddhist sensibility, though that is not completely accurate and might, frankly, insult some members of that religion due to my poor approximation of the faith. But I do think that this life, this reality, is a bit like a school. We’re here to learn certain lessons in a form of reality where learning these lessons is hard, thereby making it more likely that the lessons, once learned, stick.
If we fail to learn the lesson, we’re sent back to try again.
If we learn the lesson, we are sent back to learn a new one.
Onward and upwards until…who knows what? Omnisentience? (That’s okay, I made that word up, and rather like it.) (Is it just me or are there a lot of parentheticals in this piece?) Godhead? I dunno. Maybe nothing’s at the end but more learning. Perhaps it’s an eternal school, this reality, and it exacts its lessons roughly, sometimes inhumanely…forever.
Do I think I’ve been reincarnated? Hmmm…fair question. To subscribe to my own beliefs, the answer must be yes. But I really don’t have any deep insights or anything that particularly indicates that I was once the Dauphin or Herbert Hoover’s secretary or a victim of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. I, do, though, have a somewhat peculiar and uncanny dislike for anyone being on my left side—standing, walking, sitting, etc.—and for having my back to a door or window. This is not a joke merely thrown out there for this blog. I’ve always said that it’s because, in a past life, I was a gunfighter in the Wild West. Who knows?
There you have it. In a blog, that’s as succinct as I can be in my belief.
I find some peace in this, which is, I guess, good. If you can’t find some peace in your beliefs, you might want to consider some other belief. But I find it helps me make sense of a sometime senseless world. And isn’t that why religions came about?
Here’s where the horror comes in…
There seems to me to be a definite possibility in this model of the universe that mistakes are made. Sometimes people return to this plane with memories of their past lives intact. To make this even more hair-raising, this is observable mostly in children.
Recently, there’s been a story all over the “legitimate” news media (and those aren’t talk radio quotes, there. It’s just a distinction between, say, CNN and some strange, half-baked parapsychological website) about a boy who has recounted strange, verified details of a past life as a Hollywood producer in the 1940s, complete with name, travel accounts, movie trivia, personal details, etc. If that doesn’t raise the hairs on your arms, I don’t know what would.
It seems that these kids—and there are numerous cases of this phenomena—remember striking details of their past lives. Stuff that can be documented. Stuff that is profoundly disturbing to hear, especially from the mouths of say, a five-year-old child.
There was another recent case of a kid who remembered a past life as an American WWII fighter pilot who was killed in the Pacific. This kid was able to correctly identify WWII-era planes. He named friends of his at the time. He described, accurately and in great detail, how he had died. Again, the back of my neck prickles when I hear such stuff.
I remember reading a book entitled Audrey Rose when I was a young teenager. In it, author Frank De Fillita wrote about a man who thinks another couple’s child is the reincarnation of his daughter, who died in a horrific car accident. (Let’s not talk about the loathsome movie that was made a few years later with Anthony Hopkins.)
I remember, and it’s been literally decades since I read this in its entirety, that it was a harrowing story. I’ve since gone back and read sections of it, and while the final court scene is a tad histrionic (and hard to believe in its set up), the rest of the book is still as disturbing as I remember.
To me, as peaceful as I find the concept of reincarnation, as right as it seems, as logical as it seems, at least in terms of a progression of a soul here on this earth, it’s absolutely terrifying when this process seems to go wrong. When we get a small glimpse of what actually happens after death, when the curtains are pulled back even a little for us to take a peek, it always seems disturbing, discomfiting, terrifying.
We obviously aren’t meant to know what happens after death. Maybe our minds, as big and powerful as we like to think they are, truly can’t comprehend, truly can’t widen enough to understand what lies beyond, to take it in and process it in a way that means anything to us right here, right now.
And as much of a cop out as that might seem, I’m OK with that. I’ll concentrate on the here and now and leave any angst I have over what follows in my writing. It’s easier to deal with that way.
Incidentally, Death’s Realm is a fantastic anthology of death and what lies beyond. (Segues…I write ’em!) Some great authors in it, too many to name without naming them all. So, I’ll only say that it’s well worth your money to take a peek at what some of these writers have parted the curtains to show you. I’ve got my own story in it, “Some Other Day,” which deals with the effects grief has in this plane and the next. You might enjoy it.
You might also enjoy the next step on this blog tour, a posting by author Rhoads Brazos, who adds a special look inside his Lovecraft-inspired story “Omniscopic” with a tantalizing alternative scene. Take a look tomorrow at Grey Matter Press. And go here for the entire schedule for this tour. Enjoy!