Do you believe in reincarnation? Do you think that when a person dies, he or she has the chance to come back as an animal or a rock in a different life? Or can humans only pass into other humans bodies over time?
This brings up the question of the self and the soul, which I’ve been studying intensely during my time at UCF. I don’t think you necessarily need a degree in philosophy or religion to get your hands on the material that leads to true debate on the subject, but my professors are constantly helping me change my perspective on life with each new book they give me to read.
Robert Louis Stevenson said fiction was worthless, that all you need to read are others’ depictions of reality, in order to grow as an intellectual. Reading biographies and essays are essential to one’s developing thought-process, he said, but I think differently.
Fiction is as important as nonfiction, in my opinion, when it comes to immersing yourself in the world of another human being. You can view one’s culture, their history and their beliefs through the very words they use to describe such things.
Words are everything. By choosing to use one word over another, you are shaping the way your reader understands what you’re trying to say. The picture in his/her mind will take shape most rapidly as the eyes run along the length of the text and absorb it all in.
There are different associations people have with words which lead to images, which continue on into forming new memories or rehashing old ones. There are multiple ways to connect to a person and one of those is through reading and writing.
This is why people today are still fascinated by both the derogatory and beautiful rhythms of words strewn together in iambic pentameter by The Bard. Reading Shakespeare’s plays is almost akin to watching an old movie, where the lighting is a little off and the colors are completely washed out, but you can still fall in love with the characters and the meaning of their story. It just takes me about a quarter of the way through the pages of Hamlet or Macbeth in order for me to stop glancing down at the footnotes and become completely lost in the story.
When we fall in love with a memory, whether it is ours or it belongs to someone else, whether it is real or imagined, we don’t need guidelines to tell us how to think or feel about it. We just live inside these stories as if they were a dream we could happily fall back into whenever we felt the need to sink our teeth into the words produced by that person’s brain.
I’m going a little off topic here, but I’m just imagining my dream from last night. If I were to describe it to you in full detail, would you see it as I remember it? Would you view the life I lived in an alternate reality as being true enough to your own self as I feel it may be to mine?
I’ve read books about reincarnation, both fiction and nonfiction, and sometimes I believe the bits and pieces I’ve read about the religion of Buddhists, the Ancient Chinese and Hindu followers. Of course I haven’t lived a life at all similar to theirs, so I can only take the lessons of the Tao or the Upanishads as I barely begin to apply them to a specific moment in my life.
What I’m trying to get at is, can all these people be wrong? Can I watch the movie “Cloud Atlas” and just imagine that this is an elaborate tale designed for me to swallow it whole with insatiable hunger for the visuals, the script, the characters themselves? Is it a time-sucking piece of entertainment? And what about Brashares’ “My Name is Memory”? (A great book, by the way, not just a love story, but a snapshot into history dating back to the early 500s, to a time before civilization, to the past, present, future, to the desert, then the ocean and back.)
Can love really transcend different times and places to bring two souls together, life after life?
Where do we go when we die? Can we come back as someone else if we’ve followed the rules set in the Christian Bible or the Muslim Quran? What if you don’t believe in a higher power and all you have are your dreams?
My friend’s mom has asked for a trip to a certified hypnotist to inquire about her past-life, after she changed her mind that she would rather have this experience than receive a digital e-reader for her birthday.
Should she have chosen the latter and just consumed as many words as she could get her hands on? Would it be better to take in the lives of others or to study yourself from the inside out in order to view the world from a more appropriate angle?
I think we need a little bit of both, honestly. We should try to live life taking in the perspectives of others, while we stay true to our animal nature and also use the enhanced capacity of our human brain in order to become Freud’s self-actualized human being or Jefferson’s morally virtuous man.
If you’re into that sort of thing, anyway.