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Past Lives

I was reading a book recently that I’m not going to name because it would ruin the ending (it’s sort of the spoiler to end all spoilers) but it contained this crazy idea*.  The main character is in mourning, and he’s told that this isn’t the first time he has been in mourning.  In fact, he (X) has mourned the same loss of the same person many times because another person (Y) kept resetting the clock, rewinding time, reincarnating the players until X got the task performed to Y’s satisfaction.


X doesn’t remember reliving the same moments.  He has no clue that his life has been on a loop, reliving the same scene over and over again.  Even after he’s told, he can’t remember the times that came before the current one, almost as if his extra timelines all fused into layers, one atop the other.  To that end, he has no way of knowing whether or not he is going to be sent back in time and be asked to relive it yet again, or how far back the resetting went.  Was he just living the last adventure again?  Or the last year again?  Or his whole life, over and over again?

I always thought that I’d want to know about my past lives if I discovered emphatically that I was reincarnated, but reading that passage was a little unnerving.  What if Past Me did something awful?  Is Past Me still Current Me?  Am I responsible for everything I did in past lives, or is it a clean slate each time?

I mean, what if you found out that your neighbour — your lovely teenage neighbour who shovels your walk every time it snows and cat sits for you every time you go out of town — is reincarnated Hitler?  Is teenage Phil responsible for the atrocities he committed back when he was Hitler, or is he now just teenage Phil, separate from his past lives?

And moreover, what if people I knew shifted around.  How could I stay married to Current Josh if I discovered that in one of our past reincarnations, he was my child?  Or my father?  Better to not know and to enjoy everyone’s current incarnation vs. having to hold the baggage of their past lives.

I don’t know — if someone could definitively tell you your last few lives, would you want to know the details?  Or would you rather be in a state of blissful ignorance?


1 Katherine A { 12.09.15 at 8:06 am }

Eeeeek. That whole initial scene – the idea of someone sending me back to a particular moment (and it doesn’t seem like a pleasant moment either) over and over and over again – sounds terrifying.

I don’t think I’d want to know the details. There’s a sort of curiosity in the idea, but I feel like a theoretical past life is not something I have any control over – I can’t go back and ‘fix’ things I would have done or really make amends. Better to just do the best I can in the present.

2 a { 12.09.15 at 8:53 am }

I always want to know everything! Including, of course, the name of the book. 🙂 I have my suspicions…

3 chickenpig { 12.09.15 at 9:20 am }

I died in a car crash. I had the dream of dyeing over and over again. The car is a sedan, probably from the 50’s, my parents are in the front seat, and I can barely see out the window. In the dream I am a boy. It was very disturbing as a child knowing that I was both the boy who died in the dream and myself. When people say they believe in reincarnation, this is what it means to believe in reincarnation. I have several other memories which I know are not mine. As I got older I just turned them in to things that had actually happened to me….but they haven’t. Not to this me, in any case. When I was very young I understood that I was here for a reason. It is like school, we have grades where we love our teacher and school, and others where it is torture, but we get to go home at the end of the day. If we leave before we learn what we are supposed to, we come back and do it again. There are very few people who make it through with any memories and feelings, and if we speak about it we are considered mental, which is why I never do. I would bet any money that the author of this book has memories like I have. I believe I have read this book, twice. If I knew that the boy who shoveled my walk had been Hitler I would just accept it an move on. Our souls, or whatever we are, are greater than the few years we inhabit one body. No that I wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to throw a stone at the real Hitler if I was given it.

4 deathstar { 12.09.15 at 11:34 am }

I’m a Buddhist as you know and supposedly we believe in past lives. Our particular group never really spends a lot of time contemplating it though because of it doesn’t hold that much value in our present lives. What is past is past and the point of having the life you have now is to fulfill your mission, create good karma, become happy and help others to become happy. The reincarnation part comes after you die and you’re supposed to come back at some point in another life but it’s based on the value and good karma you created in the life you had. As for remembering your past life and being cognizant that it’s a memory… I’m going to have to ask someone wiser than myself. I’ve had definite flashes here and there of being an African dancer and shaman, but in this life I’m not a very good dancer at all and certainly wish I was wiser than I am.

5 Catwoman73 { 12.09.15 at 2:41 pm }

I think blissful ignorance suits me just fine. I often find myself looking for explanations for the behaviour I see all around me, and would hate to feel like someone’s bad behaviour is because he was Hitler in a past life. Or, for that matter, that someone’s good, altruistic behaviour is simply a result of having been Mother Teresa in a past life. I would much rather continue to believe that we have a clean slate and a new chance each time around, and our choices are our own, not simply the result of who or what we have been in the past.

6 Kat { 12.10.15 at 1:50 pm }

I’m generally an atheist but I have to admit that I have had a few too many “past life” references to completely dismiss the idea. These mostly have to do with people that I’ve only just met in this life but some how I “know” them and they me. The one that springs to mind at the moment happened when I was in 6th grade. It was the end of the day and I was walking down the stairs of my school to the exit lobby to catch my bus. There were a couple hundred other kids doing the same thing so as you can imagine we weren’t moving very fast. I peeked over the railing to the lobby below and saw a woman in her early 40’s with wild, beautiful curly hair talking to one of the teachers. I felt a shiver of recognition and thought how odd it was that she still had that hair (I had never met this woman!) No sooner had that thought come into my mind then she looked up at me and we made eye contact I saw her face change just as mine had. When I finally got to the bottom of the stairs she stopped me and asked if we had ever met or if my parents were from Nevada (no and no) she just said “But I feel like I know you..” I just nodded and told her I had to catch my bus. She ended up being the mom of the “new kid” and oddly enough her younger daughter was in the same class as my younger sister. So she and my mom became friends and I ended up babysitting for her. Every time we saw each other she insisted on hugs and told everyone, including my mom that we were close in our last lives. My mom was open to the idea as she’s a big believer in past lives. She even offered to take us for past life regression if we wanted to get more info about that life. Neither of us did, but we’re still close today!!

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm }

I would so want to know. I was told once that I’d been around with my family before. I would like to know what the configurations have been.

8 Brianna { 12.21.15 at 8:44 pm }

When I was in college, my cousin brought me to have a past life regression done. At the time, I thought it was kind of cool that there were some commonalities between my past lives and my current life, but I was getting snippets of supposed past lives, not the entirety of them. Since my kids died, I don’t know that I believe as much in past lives any more. I’m more hopeful that when I die, I’ll actually get to be with them as their mom, rather than some other sort of relationship.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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