I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as a plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
– Jalalu ‘D-Din Rumi, Sufi poet
Some people believe in reincarnation, and there are many variations of that theme amongst the faiths and spiritual models of the world. Many times I’ve mused here about the cyclical nature of the single life, peeling of layers, of skins, personalities, and of the spiral nature of …nature!
Neuropsychologists such as Paul Brok will posit that there is not in fact any such thing as the ‘self’. That, in fact, we are no more than a series of firing neurons – not even the product of those firing neurons but that ‘we’ are the actual neurons themselves. Consciousness is no more than that. All is flesh; there is nothing else. And of course, the word “reincarnation”, if you like playing at etymology, is about “being made flesh again”. But leaving aside the question of a single, identifiable soul moving from a human to a bird to a tree for today, I wonder whether we “reincarnate” many times within the one lifetime?
What on earth is this about? Well, is it so sacrilegious to wonder whether I really am the same “person” I was when I was 17? No, of course not. For many people, it is common wisdom to accept that we all change. However, most tend to believe there is a common thread of selfhood, on which the multi-coloured, -shaped and -sized buttons of my ‘persona’ hang (a button each for me at 6, me at 10, me at 50).
What if we denied that thread, and said instead that we’re just a bag of loose buttons? An initial reaction might be that in so doing, we lose something. But what? I have my memories – I remember things that happened in the past. I don’t necessarily need to be the same rigid ‘soul’ to remember, do I? Could denying that thread of rigid selfhood be instead liberating? If we let our selves perceive our selves as a button collection, might we be freed of notional constraints? For example, you might be uncleashed from self-limiting beliefs, such as “I’m a secretive type of person”, or “I’m never been good at sharing my thoughts,” “People don’t warm to me,” or “I’m rubbish at remembering birthdays.”
I suspect that if we let go, denied, ignored, that thread of Me-hood, we could all have much more interesting, exciting and fulfilling lives. If we un-anchored ourselves from the Legend of Me (made both by others and ourselves) and let our present, current being be, who knows what voyages we might make? If we understood that I am who I am this moment and that is the only Me that matters right now, then perhaps we would find it simpler to find happiness and satisfaction? We would not be seeking to fulfil past or potential needs; we would not act out of fear for the future, only out of clarified self-knowledge.
We would not confuse our worries with our desires.
I’m not advocating short-sightedness – quite the opposite. Rather look forward to the lfe that you will live day after day, knowing you’re your best person today and will be another best tomorrow. Look forward to that and recognise the boundless potential you’ve just spotted! If – as a result – anyone has a problem with you being you, well….