“I see these stories, fictions employing my knowledge of afterlife conditions and my writer’s imagination, as examples of how individuals in spirit respond to their urgings to either stay in paradise or return to the challenges of earth life, whether they believe in reincarnation or not. The variety of responses and paths followed are, and should be, as many as exist on earth. I doubt, in fact, that I could cover them all, but in the months ahead I shall, hopefully, render a sufficiently wide sample to convey what I perceive as the complexity of the situation.” ~ Gordon Phinn
Gordon is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction with many published books. He is a practicing psychic and spiritual counselor, offering many services that can be found on his website. He facilitates such practices as spirit contact, entity removal, distance healing and past life regression. Visit Gordon Phinn’s blog here.
Being Born Again
Story One: Delaying The Inevitable
I’d been kicking back for months, maybe years, it’s hard to tell here, with all those paradise pleasures laying themselves before you just begging to be enjoyed. The all-expenses paid vacation, you can’t beat it really, too good to be true. That is until you get used to it and long for the challenges your old life provided every other day. Annoying at the time but starting to look intriguing now.
Taking it easy for so long is some kind of challenge in itself, and I don’t seem to be adapting as well as I would have guessed. Being so free of family ties, – the vindictive wife with her smarmy lawyer, the righteous kids with their preachy religions, “we’re not saintly just saved”, the ancient but still kicking parents, proud of everyone but me, the envious cousins, sneaking off their moral high ground at night to see what scam I’d made so remunerative, – you’d think I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. But here there’s no banks to laugh your way into. Just bored former bankers and financiers, several of whom I play a few rounds with and savour our regrets in the bar later. And with the single malt they have here, savouring is about all you are up to.
Then it’s often a stroll to one or other of the ladies in the village, some of whom are as fancy free as me. Lousy marriages, career slavery, families than sat on you rather than with you, the shame of debt, the pinch of poverty, the list goes on but usually lands them in the banquet of fun and pleasures that is our life here. Village you might ask, well there’s towns and cities too, but the quiet life is within easy reach for any who can find it among the bewildering bucket of choices. We have enough shops and amenities to keep us amused and the buzz of city life is just a hop and skip away.
I was thinking of just that convenience as I passed Lily’s cottage. A little too cutesy pie for me but it’s Lily‘s dream and she’s pottering about the flower beds in a charming sundress and hat as I make my presence felt. Oh, Alec it’s you, I was just thinking it was time for tea, do come in! A perfect figure and sunny personality, who could resist? Not me. Never could truth to tell, but here it’s all so swimmingly easy. And the women, feisty and far from dependent. Ladies’ choice, as they used to say at dances, is the community standard here. No feminist rhetoric, at least as far as I can tell, just an assumption smoothly exercised. One lady of my acquaintance beamed as I was leaving, Ah, so many men so little time! And she’d been such fun I was not about to disabuse her of the notion. Lily, I might add, is not so forthright, and I suspect, feels no need to exercise that option. She once joked, Husbands and wives, yuck! And I agreed, how could I not, and we continued with our sherry and snacks.
Today is more the tea ceremony, a tinge of the Japanese but no geisha outfit. A tea with a marvelous flower essence whose secrets she would not divulge. Oh Alec, you don’t want to know everything do you? She wiggled her nose. Don’t you think little mysteries are just the best? I nodded, waving one of her wafer-thin biscuity things, praising their blend of flavors.
And so it went, swimmingly, smoothly, as we lead each other to her boudoir, bedding down for an hour or two to enjoy each other without expectation or suspicion. When I left, she kissed me on the forehead, and I returned with tiny lick of the nose. We shared a chuckle, she was looking forward to her dance class and me, well, looking forward to not having to make any choices. That’s a prize for me, after a life of agonizing decisions, most of which spun me in circles that I thought would be spirals.
I wander over to Doug’s, just a few blocks, and snugged right into a parkette, maybe a bit fancier than the ones in my old neighborhood but serving much the same purpose. Sure, enough Doug’s sitting there with his son Whitley playing chess on the marble chess table. I take my place beside them in the companionable silence that’s expected. Not much of a fan myself but I enjoy watching the concentration on their faces. They’ve been here together a while before I arrived and were settled in a way I admired right off. My kids would never live with me, too horrified. Not that I’d really want them close. Too bloody sanctimonious for me, even before the public shaming.
Insider trading is all the rage these past years, so when I say I was framed by higher ups to take the rap people tend to go, Oh yeah right. But I was. Sure, no saint me, but even swimming with the sharks, as I did at Investment Strategies Inc., I somehow retained some faith in human nature. I shouldn’t have bothered. The scam was well plotted, I’ll have to admit, but the fraud was on me, not by me. My lawyer was good but theirs were better, and I got to spend a year in one of those country club lockups, kitchen duty and gardening mainly with some business ethics classes thrown in. Then the freedom to downsize. Then a renewed interest in the white powders, courtesy Jasmine, the clubber. Met her in a Starbucks. She spilled her latte on me and was full of apologies. Then fielding invitations. I’m a girl who knows her own mind she said. I was the boy who didn’t know what to do next and was happy to fall into line with someone who did, especially looking like that.
And boy did she know how to party. Her ex, long gone to barely-out-of-college nubiles, had a great line in recreationals, as she called them, and was always carrying when we met up. He sized me up as a sucker she would milk for money, I could see it in his eyes, but knew I was too smart for that. My wife had trained me well and I knew all the signs or thought I did. But I never had to put my knowledge into action. Third time out with Jassy, full tilt fun dancing to music I thought I hated, my heart took a little leap into the unknown and there I was, on the floor, face down, but somehow looking up. And then being up. Not quite on the ceiling but close. Who was that on the floor that everyone was fussing over?
The same guy that the paramedics were carrying out on stretcher? The same guy in the ambulance, with Jasmine crouched beside, tearing up? The same guy being examined by a doctor finding no signs? The same guy parked in a cold room on a gurney, a sheet over him? I watched as police asked questions and Jasmine wept between answers. Gees, she really did like me.
By the time I was in the operating room, the big star with everyone clustering around, I had to admit, yeah, that was me down there looking like death warmed over. And after some frantic attempts at resuscitation, they let me be on my way. I kinda sussed that out but the way of ‘on my way’, where was it? The floating about thing had me for a while. Just like in the films I had seen, I could float anywhere, along hallways, through windows to what are you going to call it, the fresh air, above trees and people on benches, parking lots, and then back in again, and somehow, I’m in a cafeteria watching salads and pies go into mouths, coffees being sipped, and worried looks being shared.
One woman, kinda blandly normal if you want to be honest about it, looked right at me and smiled. Flirty but then no, not really, and not a bible thumper as I suspected for a second. Was trying to figure why she had this glow going when she said I can see you, others can’t but I can.
Am I dead or something else, I asked?
Well, you don’t have the right vibe to be in an extended coma so I’d say, yeah, dead.
Me, sure, I’m long gone.
So, what’s your game then?
I’m a people catcher. People that are spirits but don’t know it.
Yeah, like you. And no, I’m not an angel.
Just wondering that.
Yeah, I could feel it.
What, my thought. You can read them.
Well, some of them. That one’s easy as everyone thinks it.
Long time guide, are you?
Sure. Just like a greeter in Walmart. I can direct you to where you need to go.
And she did, more or less. She took my hand, advised closing the eyes as I might get dizzy and off we went. Reminded me of a post-surgery ride on a gurney, years before, where I was told much the same. We arrived in a garden area just outside a hotel like building. I looked around, maybe I looked amazed, it was pretty impressive.
You can get a room here no problem. Until you get settled. You have relatives here? Grandparents, friends? No, I admitted, Jasper and Katie had taken good care of themselves and were still thriving 80 year olds. Friends out of the game? All those squash and golf pals? All still eager beavers chasing the mega-deal that would end all that deal making. Well, my friendly greeter assured, that’ll not be a problem. Plenty of fish in this sea.
Inside, swanky but not ostentatious. A check in desk with charmers wanting your name and country of origin but nothing else. No passports or credit cards. Lack of luggage raised no eyebrows. My greeter seemed to know the desk clerk, chatty like work colleagues. She sat me down in the lobby under a very healthy fern and asked about clothes. I assumed there were stores in the building. Yeah they had a menswear place. A couple of them actually. The one we found ourselves at was larger than I would have guessed. The weather there was always fine, I was told, so lightweight pants, short sleeved shirts and so on. I got all kitted out in no time and was handed enough bags to conceal my rather conservative taste. And was told not to worry about payment, it was all cash and credit free here.
Up to the fourth floor, a very well appointed room with ensuite, though she said, You’ll hardly use it, stashed the bags and moved on to a lunch I’ll not soon forget. All you can eat style, and I wasn’t hungry till I saw it. Gorged on lobster and caviar, a Sancerre of suitable vintage, Perrier that seemed to vitalize you as it went down. A latte and some killer brandy. The restaurant area was about half full and bubbled with chatter.
My greeter hostess took this opportunity to announce her departure. Things to do places to go, but she assured, with a smile I knew to be more than sincere, that she would be back to make sure I was behaving myself. Then she winked and told me to have as much fun as I could handle and sauntered off. Sipping my brandy and reviewing my options, I turned to hear greeting from two guys at the next table. Had I just arrived, did I want some company? I joined them. Yeah, the food here was exceptional. How did I find it? They’d been brought over by a biker friend, leaving their smashed-up bikes by the side of the road they’d skidded on. Gravel roads, sometimes you just must take them. A lady passing by, slowed to say that she was just trying on a dress for her niece’s wedding, one of those society shindigs where you really must play the part, when she feinted, passed out and then found herself here without the slightest clue how she made it. We all chuckled as she walked off with a man who might have been her husband. Ben and Jerry wanted to explore the place and asked if I’d care to join them. I couldn’t see why not.
We ambled about, nodding and smiling, amazed at our good luck. What did we do to deserve this? I was all for debating it while Ben and Jerry just wanted to enjoy. And with the number of young ladies swaying about the place I could see why. The pool was a mecca for laughter and splashing and I left them there with a couple of best new friends in bikinis, Jenny and Justine, who invited me to join them but I begged off, promising to join them later after a walk. On that walk, through some nearby woods with paths conveniently snaking through them, invitingly I thought as I entered, I met, or was greeted by Javier, who seemed very keen to tell me that he had just figured out how to change himself.
I know, sounds crazy right, but watch this. He waved his hands like he was swatting flies and suddenly he wasn’t, you know, Hispanic but more kind of Swedish. He laughed and I congratulated. It was all a bit Alice-in-Wonderlandish, and as he walked away, he called Don’t worry you’ll get the hang of it one day. As I went on my way, I tried not to think about what I had just seen, and it almost worked until I got to a sort of sculpted bench that had that same inviting vibe I’d felt on entering the woods. No, it didn’t say Sit on me please, but I’ll tell you, it felt like it was molding itself to my frame as I sat down.
A flurry of small birds, finches and robins, arrived to flit about as I made myself comfortable. The area had been conspicuously birdless as I approached so I imagined a stage manager off to the left saying Okay you’re on now. There must have been some tiny specks of food about as pecking soon joined the usual repertoire of flitting and dashing. After some moments of delight, I moved to the task at hand: figuring out what had happened.
Running through the parade of events since the dance club collapse, I admitted the inevitable: I had died on the operating table, wandered about until the greeter got my attention and was now in some version of the afterlife. So, I might as well get used to it. I thought of poor Jasmine, probably shaken to the core. That thought alone had me instantly by her side as she sniffled, wept and snorted coke from the back of her ex’s hand. I could even hear his words of condolence, or at least some of them. Oh baby, didn’t I tell you, you gotta be in shape to do this stuff. We’re athletes, you and me. I know she replied, he was a bit over the hill and out of shape, but he was so sweet and I’ll miss him like mad. That was enough and I was back on the bench with the birdies.
Of course, that was all ages ago and after a spell in the hotel my greeter suggested I might want a place of my own. I’d gotten quite comfy with the easy-going pleasures of the place and said I wasn’t in any hurry to vacate, but she mentioned that a couple of earthside disasters, with many dead, had put some pressure on places like this. I didn’t even bother asking what they were. You get like that here, after a lifetime of dramas and tragedies, you feel like maybe you’ve put in your time and maybe others can do the coping. Or maybe I was always selfish.
Long story short, I wound up in this pleasant little community, not far from Doug and Whitley, about the only dead people I really knew, in a recently vacated log cabin structure parked inside some pines and poplars, like a snatch of Montana surrounded by suburban Connecticut. Apparently, the previous occupant had been resident for ages but had recently moved on, something that would be explained to me later I was informed my greeter Helen seemed to know lots and would drop hints and pearls of wisdom from time to time. She knew about my connection to Doug and Whitley for example and would only say, we know about this stuff. I still had enough of the right stuff to reply, And I’m not to worry my pretty little head about, am I? I have to say that did get a laugh. When they dropped in later Doug admitted that he had heard I was here. Apparently, there was some central communications office that kept track of all the deaths and entrances. I suggested it sounded ominously like the NSA. Well, no least not as far as he knew. No files as such, just notifications. Your friends and loved ones knew you were here but were not reading reports on your behavior and movements. Doug and Whitley had been pronounced fatalities at some highway pile up some winters back. They’d been on their way to ski country, and to tell the truth, I was still shocked to see them whole and healthy.
I’d heard through Deanna, one of the few who’d shown sympathy in my season of public and family shaming. Sure, she’d fallen into my arms weeping and we’d had a brief fling which we quickly regretted. Doug seemed to know all about this and in a quiet moment, thanked me for looking after her. These moments were not so hard to come by as Whitley had found himself a girlfriend, a college drop out who’d gotten all fired up about wildlife preservation and had an unfortunate encounter with a bear up in the hills. Holding and waving Whitley’s hand one time she’d told me, well you win some you lose some, but look what I got now.
Doug also seemed to know about, well, everything else, Deanna’s fighting with her daughter Felicity over gender reassignment therapy, her tussles with the insurance company and the prospect of a court case, and there I was all set to fill him in on the details. When he said, “Oh we can drop by pretty much anytime and catch the action”, I tried not to act dumb, but I was. At least until much later when he showed me how to do it, the dropping by that is.
Once you get the hang of it you can appear almost anywhere on earth and zero in on what interests you. Listening to my offspring slagging me off while they scarfed down their morning waffles as their mother, and my ex, set up her appointments for the day in the palatial spaces provided by her developer husband, was not high on my list of priorities, whereas natural wonders like waterfalls, rain forests and volcanos competed with architectural miracles like cathedrals and castles kept me more than amused. I did drop in on the two execs who framed me and got away with it as they polished their new shiny selves at church and country club.
From time to time, I amused myself, as ghosts with a bad attitude are wont to do, by shifting important papers to seldom used file drawers and nudging expensive liquor bottles to the edge of shelves where the slightest wobble would have them shatter. Doug would chuckle if I remembered to tell him as we sipped our own fancy brandy, telling me how good it looked on them. He even went as far as to congratulate me for not slipping into more scurrilous brands of vengeance. He’d heard tales of nasty falls and skids on ice that the resentful dead had influenced with relish. He was never sure if the tellers were legit, but the pleasure of their exposition was unmistakable. Makes you wonder if we really are in heaven. And given the complete absence of churches in our little slice of paradise I was inclined to agree.
I brought the matter up with Lily one time as we lounged under her rose arbor with some herb tea. She’d been raised Baptist but had run from all the rules after high school to a series of waitressing jobs in the city and then a part time position at the local library, which landed her into a bunch of philosophy and theology books, all a bit beyond her pay grade. But she persevered until she reached a point of confusion that kept her awake at night with all the answers running round her brain. So then you die, and think great it’ll all be resolved here and it isn’t really but you are so relaxed and happy you find it hard to care. This garden, she added gesturing, might as well be the garden of Eden and I can be Eve with the apple any time I want.
Ask me why I like her, go on. She’s got that feisty rebellious spirit, so different from that status loving wife of mine. Okay I admit it, I liked that when we first hitched but when I lost the overdrive for profit I saw her, and myself really, for what we were: empty vessels looking to be filled with things, things and more things. Not long after the legal shit hit the fan, leaving me with no leisure time to contemplate the emptiness of my existence, as I had to hustle just to keep my head above water.
Unlike here, this valley of joys and pleasures, where the picnic unrolls from day to day and there’s very little need to question anything. Beauty, and one‘s delight in it; pleasure and one’s participation in it; harmony, there’s no escaping it. And why would you want to? Stress-free socializing here in happy valley, guy stuff, girl stuff, more adult education than you can shake a stick at, everything from exotic cuisines to chess, fine carpentry, something called quantum mysteries, something else like extra-terrestrial anthropology, I got the catalogue right by my easy chair, and it just goes on and on. You might be surprised, a suit like me, albeit a disgraced one, but I always wanted to learn how to hand sew shirts and there’s a guy here who dies just that, self-taught not a tailor in the family, David Calfin, and I’m becoming quite the seamstress. He looked at me one day in class, that’s five of us, and muttered Yeah, past life and not a happy one either. Something at thirty-five, TB maybe. Then we’re to back to cutting and stitching and I’m thinking How does he know that. Later over some herb tea with Vanessa and Eric I pursued the matter. He said he didn’t know it just came to him unannounced. He’d been involved in textiles and clothing several times himself and just kinda took it for granted.
Another time he asked, after I’d mastered frills, if I ever thought about going back. I did a double take and asked, you know, Did he think I was crazy. That shit hole, why bother? He laughed, In no hurry to renew your neurotic affiliations, huh? His laughter eased the jolt. What about him? No, he was pleased and satisfied with how it worked out for him. Maybe later he’d explore his options, but now, no.
Then why did he ask? Well, not everyone knew of that option and he liked to remind them. You know, just in case. I nodded, relieved it was off the menu for me. I might be surprised, he continued, but some are really keen to get back there. Some of the Iraq vets were itching to return. What, to that crap, why? Well, he said, to get the life they felt was taken from them, the life they shoulda had if they’d made the smart choice. And how did he cross their paths? Well, he helped out with a counselling group. For some reason I flashed on some twelve-step program, but he sussed me out immediately and said No, not that. Not behavior modification, just an information session. They even got some half-hearted church types showing up, you know, just wondering, like could they do it, were they allowed.
I must have looked puzzled. Their reasoning was something like, because they never believed in it before, could they switch tracks and you know, believe in it now. David reminded them of the millions of Hindus and Buddhists who did it, more or less without thinking. Beliefs were fluid not set in stone, he would tell them. Switching up was easier than many thought. David was always surprised that they found their way here, when the religious heavens were vast and always happy to add to the flock.
I hadn’t thought too much about that. Religion being the crock it was, at least to me. Fraud with good PR, big business with the cloak of piety. I figured they had to go somewhere, just really didn’t care where. But something he’d said caught me, find their way here. I wondered out loud, So where was here exactly? David chuckled, Yes, my friend, good question. The afterlife for the non-aligned? I saw his point and chuckled myself. Then I thought, Do I?
I asked Lily, on our next afternoon together, what she thought. About going back to get beat up all over again? I don’t think so. Why piss on your chance in paradise? You’d have to be crazy, have some kinda real need. Not me, no way. And it’s not like they’re short on babies down there is it. She’d heard, way before I’d arrived, when she’d flirted with religion on the notion that they might have something to say, that some had felt they should go back to help bring about Jesus’ plan for mankind, even though they’d thrown themselves at it last time. She’d even witnessed a debate among the believers, some swearing that the satanic forces were sweeping up the planet and couldn’t be stopped no matter what, and others who felt that giving up was just what Satan and his pals wanted, so why let them have their way. She’d been welcomed as a visitor at first but when she’d suggested that living in the moment was the thing to do, the way you realized your true self, the reception turned a mite frosty and she kept her own counsel from then on. I’d only just been reading up on mindfulness meditation the week before, I hardly knew what I was talking about, the words just kinda spat themselves out.
She sipped at her tea and asked if I’d like some more. I held out my cup and smiled. Now that you’ve got me onto it, one of the women in my dance class, a convert to Buddhism she says, is convinced we all go back, but not until we’re ready. Well, not for me Millie. Lily sipped and added, Millie, by the way, comes to class with Juliette, her daughter who was knocked flat by a delivery truck when she was five and who got here way before her mom, who you know tried to douse her pain by having more kids but couldn’t and then, after the husband buggered off with one of his grad students, dosed herself into a coma and died. I tried to nod sagely. Course they’re like sisters now, in fact Millie swears they were in Virginia 150 years ago.
Don’t tell me the philandering husband was the father back then?
No, the brother, or so she claims.
So how do they come to knowing all this? Lily wasn’t sure but said she’d ask.
Then we stretched out on the recliners and relaxed to the birdsong and chatter. You don’t really need naps, or sleep for that matter, here, but the habit clings. Sometimes I wonder if everything I do here is some habit clinging. Nibbling on delicacies for example. I rarely get hungry, nobody does really, not after the first little while, but your faves, whatever they are, still exert a fascination. Anything from caviar to carrot cake. And for some reason they all taste fabulous, very five-star eatery.
Later I stopped by one of Doug and Whitley’s endless chess tournies. A couple of friends were playing beside them and swapping partners. In a break I asked Doug what he thought of all this. Paradise was paradise, as far as he was concerned, why look the gift horse in the mouth? Gift of god, secrets of the universe, satanic illusions, call it what you like, it was more fun than he could ever recall. Played golf with his dad any time he wanted, swam in the lake every day, just waiting for his mother and wife to show up ready to party. And hell, you’re here.
So no going back for him? Not by a long shot. That crash was the best thing that ever happened to me. I looked over to Whitley and he nodded. Maybe in a hundred years when they’ve made heaven on earth instead of just fantasizing about it. We set a date for golf, and I moved on. I had things to think about.
That thinking spanned some days. Once I got started, it kinda got a hold on me and I couldn’t stop. Well, I was able to put it aside for golf and visits with Lily, but even then, it spilled over. I tried to describe the endless parade of flashbacks and memories that seemed more, well, extended. I felt like I was assessing my performance. Yeah, I reported, like a performance review but all on your own steam. The good and the bad, the honorable and embarrassing. Lily, bless her soul, was good enough to chuckle at the right points but not too much. She said she’d heard others talk about life reviews, like it was something you had to do, whether you wanted to or not. Like you couldn’t move on until you’d dealt with it. Move on to what exactly? Some other heaven after heaven? She wasn’t sure and wondered if she really wanted to find out. I mean, why stop the carnival? She paused for a moment and then said You know, it’s like that song Stop the world I wanna get off but it’s the opposite, like, Keep it going I’m enjoying the ride.
We talked about life having a meaning, a purpose. Like we did before, like we all did, maybe after a few too many drinks. Maybe we didn’t need to have a purpose anymore, just like we didn’t need to have a career or kids. Maybe we just needed to be… ‘fulfilled in the moment’ was Lily’s thought. Then she recalled hearing about adopting orphans, you know, kids that died young. Apparently, it was, you know, a thing. They grew up quickly, but they still needed parenting. Then it was her new watercolor painting class. Now there was something she always wanted to do, and now was her chance.
Then it was back to thinking things over, and by the time my next session with David and detachable collars, I was ready. He felt the life review was to help set you up for self-acceptance, the whole self not just the bits you preferred. Okay, I go that. Anything else? The floods of memories, fascinating at first, so many different angles to view stuff from, was beginning to wear on me. David said he recalled when all that happened to him. It took its sweet time but eventually it passed, and some kind of calm balance returned. He sussed me out again. Was I perhaps thinking about going back? Yeah, okay, I said, you got it. But why would I bother. Pretty much everyone thinks it’s a bad idea. He nodded, understanding.
Well, not exactly. It is if you’re not ready. And even if you think you’re ready the excitement of playing the game again can twist you into some sloppy decision making.
A life that’s less than ideal for your needs and ambitions. Parents that could use a few years of having fun before settling down. Unless of course you actually want a wild ride. How was your last one?
Sedate and secure in the suburbs. But I thought it boring of course. Leaped at adventures using college as the excuse. And I got them alright. Roommate dead in car crash before Christmas. Girl I was courting took her own life, didn’t even twig to the depression. And that was just first year. Mother wanted me home for a year to get stabilized, but I wanted to be the brave soldier.
If you want to chart a new course that can be arranged, though maybe not with a hundred percent accuracy.
So, no predestination then?
Not unless you buy into that package.
That’s something you can buy into?
Sure if you’re not careful. You can buy into anything. You know, if the shoe fits there’s a temptation to wear it. Okay, I can see you’re puzzled. There’s two ways: you can bring it over from some past life and deal with it head on, or you can buy into it here and take it down there as it were.
You mean some get converted here in paradise?
Sure. People get converted into all sorts of stuff here. The belief system buyers club I call it. Predestination, karma, devotion to some deity or ideology. You name it.
Sounds like down there.
Can do, but down there it’s confusion over what the heck’s going on. Here it’s a surfeit of pleasure and joy, folk suspect it has to be paid for, somehow, somewhere, that the deity of their choice requires grateful devotion of some kind, or society has to be rebuilt to perfection. So you get all the -isms. Capitalism, socialism, religionism, scientism, environmentalism, on and on it goes.
So, what about families and friends?
Well sure, there’s lots of devotion to those ideals. I’m big on friendship myself.
I twigged to something. David are you some kind of teacher in disguise? I hear wisdom in everything you say.
He waved his hand in rebuttal and made it plain he liked to be a friend not a guide. He didn’t have all the answers. He was David the shirt man. We both laughed.
Again, I spent some days thinking all this over. And then I went to David’s counselling group as he called it. A pleasant space in an office-y type building, the type of place you expect to see a dentist’s office, except we don’t have dentists. Believe it or not nothing decays. Not sure why and I’m not sure I want to know why. Ignorance is bliss and all that. David, idly flipping through a magazine, seemed to be waiting for me. Group? No-one else showed up. No worries, some weeks it was like that.
In an adjoining room, he sat me in front of a large flat screen, just like the one I had at home. He asked if I wanted to see some possibilities. I said sure. He clicked the control in his hand. An image appeared of a fairly typical suburban house and lawn. Pretty but not outstanding. A mother and father on the lawn with a child crawling about on a blanket. Looked liked my daughter but a bit older, the evangelical that denounced me. Before the judge handed down a sentence. David asked if I was horrified. I said, That me the baby?
Could be, if you want it. They’ve been having trouble conceiving so you’ll be the miracle child, the gift from god. I was immediately sure I did not want the burden. David clicked again. A woman, about twenty-five, in jeans and workshirt, working intently at a screen with piles of indescribable widgets scattered about. An inventor he said. Living hand to mouth as patents proved not as promising as once thought. A brain billowing over with ideas. Yep, it was another me, reapplying my skills to more abstract concepts, making something from nothing. Apparently, there was an accountant husband upstairs who was fully supportive. My art dealer brother from France circa 1830. Me, I was the portraitist trying to expand his talents. Me, I hadn’t sketched a thing in my life. No, that’s right, David said, but what about the Renaissance artist, sketching plants? Another woman appeared, drawing at a desk while what was obviously a lover snoozed on her bed. She looked post-coital disheveled but totally focused. I wondered if she was a courtesan. By this point I was dazzled.
David hinted another possibility. One of two twins to a wealthy couple. Yeah, it was someone I tussled with way back when. I’m not religious as you know, but I shuddered at the possibility of some Cain and Abel story. David chuckled, No, not quite. Competitive yes, duel to the death no. Brother caught on either side of a civil war, mad as hell but not trying to wipe the other out. More trying to avoid it. Eventually, with him dead in battle you had to help raise his kids and then later, take on his wife while yours scowled and made do. Now there was much resentment that could be retooled.
Later, all this led to discussion over beers, and boy are they good here. David fleshed out some more possibilities and tried to answer my questions. We were seated at a lakeside café, lanterns swaying gracefully in the warm breeze as waves lapped against the pier. Eventually I thanked him and went on my way, leaving him to lady friend who had just joined us.
You don’t really need to sleep here but I slept that night. The next morning, I breakfasted and thought to visit Lily, who was tending her herb garden when I arrived. I asked permission to spill the beans. She said Give me a few minutes. I detailed the time with David, and she listened, bless her soul. The she said Why don’t we go flying? I was reluctant as any newbie might be, but she showed me the secrets in a few moments, and it was nothing to do with flapping your arms, more just convincing yourself you could do it. We lifted off laughing like kids, flying above the trees, between the trees, over the lake, skimming the waves and then up and over the hills beyond. A couple of times she had to hold my hand when doubts seemed to freeze me.
When we returned to her place, giddy and happy, she made us some lunch and we enjoyed it together. In chattering away, she again brought up her point about living in the moment as opposed to always making plans. This time I really got her point and decided to postpone any rebirth strategies, at least for now. Whatever ‘now’ was in this land without time.