It surprises me how many people believe they have lived other lives. Close associates in this life, they say, were also attached in past lives, but with the roles mixed up. Over the course of many lives, they might have been connected as siblings, mother and child, lovers or enemies.
There I was the other day in a little restaurant in Keene Valley, drinking coffee and watching the rain course down the window glass, thinking wouldn't it be strange if we all kept meeting up again and again, like people in a small-town cafe, same cast of characters, having gone through all kinds of scenarios, related to each other one way and another?
And here we all are again, not realizing, united by the coffee and pastries and the light inside, as well as by the pouring down rain outside, reading our papers, companionable, between lives, awaiting the next drama. Like a bunch of out-of-work actors waiting for their next part.
Everybody has to just keep coming back to earth over and over again until they get it right; this is called karma. Those who have lived many lives and, presumably, wised up in the process, are called "old souls." They are nearing completion of their career here on this physical plane. When they have learned all of the necessary life lessons they leave this system and enter Nirvana, which I think is like heaven.
And of course everyone who tells me about reincarnation believes that he or she is an old soul. I have never heard anyone claim to be a new soul just starting out, like a kindergartner on the first day of school. Sometimes believers come close to actually bragging about how old-soul they are, and have to stop themselves, because that is so not old soul.
We have rain, but not like people affected by the recent hurricane that threatened the Republican convention. I called an old friend who lives in Louisiana. We were in library school together, but we have mostly lost touch. It seems it takes a hurricane to bring us together.
"We only lost a few shingles on our house," she told me, accepting, just glad to be alive. "we'll think about the roof later," she said.
A few summers back, I was outside in a tent when a big thunderstorm swept through Keene Valley. There, with the pine pollen and tent caterpillars, I was fascinated by the crashing strength of the deluge, first driving rain, then pelting hail. I could see individual lines of rain clearly, high in the sky. Wind whipped the rain into dense white spray, like a snow storm.
The thunder was deafening The lightning was flashing almost synonymously with the thunderclaps. It occurred to me that I was surrounded by 150-foot pine trees. Maybe I should get out of the tent and go indoors. As soon as I was inside the house, lightning struck and split one of the pines just behind the tent I was in.
I know a couple who were once visited in their home by lightning, fortunately with no permanent ill effects. The woman was reading in bed when a bolt of electricity went right through her. The shock was painful, she said, but did not injure her. In the next room her husband was working at his computer. The electricity temporarily knocked out the computer but did not shock him. The two are able to joke about the experience now.
Perhaps lightning is attracted to certain people. Maybe the proclivity to being struck by lightning runs in families. Maybe he is attracted to the kind of woman who draws lightning.
In everyday life, all kinds of details seem important, from the price of gasoline to the kind of coffee you're drinking. But when disaster strikes, or strikes nearby, priorities change with lightning speed. We become more fully aware of what our priorities really are, for a while at least.
Meanwhile, other people go on about their daily business, oblivious. A reader once sent me a poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts," by W. H. Auden, to illustrate this very point about individual catastrophe:
"... how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
... how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the
We all have our stories. Maybe the same old stories we've all told each other for life after life.
Except for you new souls.
Have a good week.