Self Expression Magazine

The Ultimate What If

Posted on the 21 October 2019 by Laurken @stoicjello

I have a distinct /love hate relationship with certain questions geared at me specifically:  questions posed for the sole purpose of making me think.   Today isn’t a thinking day, but neither is it a day to pick cotton  or haul hay.      So, contemplating an existential kind of question is definitely the lesser of the three evils.

A friend an I were sitting in my my couch which thanks to my current living room remodel is now in my kitchen and were drinking wine in a can.   A completely inconceivable concept six years ago, but convenient and while it’s probably not listed anywhere on  the wine list at the Ritz in Paris, it beats wine in a box.

But drink enough fermented anything……swill even and you can bandy about some pretty interesting things in your head.      Religion came up, namely Buddhism, specifically, reincarnation.

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As most religions go, I’m an ignoramus.    I’ve forgotten most of my Catholicism and have a very simplified ….nay…..oversimplified notion of what Buddhism really is all about.    It’s commonly linked to reincarnation which I always thought meant you get to come back with the chance to be a better person than who or what you were in a previous life.

My drinking buddy, who denies she’s a Sophist (she is, but I can’t help but like the old broad) claims she flirted with Buddhism in college,   She was also a a Goth, had a brief dalliance as a Preppie and became a Reba McIntyre clone for the two weeks she dated a cowboy.

I share her that I have this silly idea that we all start out as chiggers and in a kind of  Darwin-esque evolution, we become crickets, then lizards, dogs might have come next, then monkeys then humans.     But not the brightest humans.  We start out as rather dim witted and simple,  then we evolve into intelligent thoughtful people.    Unknowingly striving with each new lifetime to be stronger, smarter, nicer.   Just plain better.     

My friend sipped her wine, while I went to this Vedic website to find out more about the religion.    I spent six minutes there, got a wicked headache and split, but within that brief time frame, I figured out my simplified overview is partly correct.    I’m far from right, but not all that wrong, either.

Now, with all that out of the way,   My friend asked me if I could live my exact life over again, would I?

Hhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm……maybe.      I asked if I’d have to relive my same exact life second by second, with all the same options, choosing the same ones I did previously.

“If you could change any part of it, you wouldn’t be reliving  your exact life, now would you? “

”Then my answer is no.    I think I’ve learned enough so far to advance to something better.   That is, if reincarnation is a real thing.  What if the Buddhists are wrong?    What if reincarnation doesn’t exist and we only get one shot at life?”

She took a sip of her wine, “Well, 600-million Buddhists in the world can’t be all wrong.   Look, the only thing I can say is that if we only get one crack at life, that seems  like an awful lot of waste of time, energy and humanity.  Take for example, a baby who dies at five months old.      What’s the purpose of such a short life with only primitive awareness like hunger, thirst, pain, temperature and the discomfort of dirty diapers, pick your medium, wet or solid?”

”I don’t know what its purpose would be.   Parents who really wanted a child only got five months with it.   They should grateful for that, I suppose.    But I don’t get that either.   And I never got Limbo or Purgatory when the nuns talked about it in Catechism.   To me those places seemed like Detention Hall for different age groups.     Limbo is the baby one, right?“

”I’m a Protestant.   I have no idea”.I told that I’ve always had a jibed of Buddhist vibe to my belief system.   I tell her I look at my life like a sandwich.   One slice of bread is good, it represents happiness and easy living.     The other slice is bad stuff .   It’s everything negative you must endure and experiencing both is vital.     The sandwich’s contents are everything in between.  How you respond to the good, how you overcome the bad are the karmic points (or the lack thereof)  that serve as the stuff between the two pieces of bread.   When the time is right…..at death, I guess…there’s a weigh in and if there’s more good in ounces you advance.   If bad outweighs the good, you go take two steps back.  I don’t know if that means you’re relegated back to chigger  status again or what, but you don’t take a step forward.

My friend didn’t know the answer to that either but felt sure that Buddhism does believe reincarnation, but only in the context of that you should do good, earn enough karmic points to advance from who and whatever you were to who you should become.

Okay, but that’s what perplexes me.   How does good karma allow us to go from monkey to human?   Is there “cross-carnating” (is that even a word???) in Buddhism?   If only humans only have real awareness, then how would a locust manage to earn  the karmic points needed to reincarnate?    What would do the trick?     Would it have to  refuse  to participate in prophesied pestilence, locust style?   Spare a farmer, and become a carnivore?

What about a germ????     Does it lie dormant as a kindness?   Hold on to a nostril for dear life during a sneeze???    And would someone please tell me how in the hell something like a worm would catch a Reincarnation break??

My refined friend, pours the rest of her canned wine into her glass.    I take a hit straight from the can.   She thinks “cross-carnating” happens somehow, but once we enter human territory, we can’t return to Chiggerdom.   We might not have memories of past lives but as humans, even first rate idiots have higher instincts concerning good and bad, right and wrong and as a result, we become more refined with each reincarnation.

I looked at her puzzeled and asked, ‘So, I could  be who and what I am today because I might have generously shared a banana with another chimp on the set of “Tarzan” back in  1942?.   Then, I spend the rest of my simian life as the benevolent groomer  6E67EAEB-46BE-4292-B6A8-82A5CA93FD3D

plucking clods of mud and dirt, burrs, dried skin and fleas off members of my chimp troop, selflessly never to be groomed in return, then I catch some horrible chimp disease, die and come back as Laurie Kendrick on a most auspicious day in April, 1959?”

”Possibly, but I don’t think reincarnation is an immediate process.   Some down time would make sense to me. And I doubt anyone automatically goes from chimp to human.   You’ve probably  been several different people becoming you.”
”Do you think Buddhists go to hell?”

“My mother is convinced anyone who isn’t  Methodist is hell-bound, but  Buddhists  have their own version of an afterlife. They get reborn, and reborn and try to get it right.  They basically earn the right to experience lifetime after lifetime until they reach complete enlightenment.”

“So, no Hell?”

”well, there are almost 600-million Buddhists in the world.    They can’t be all wrong.   Besides, my “get to know Siddhartha” period was brief and a million years ago, but I don’t seem to remember anything being mentioned about hell.”

“Then what is Nirvana?”

She swirled her wine in her glass.      “A helluva band from the 90’s”.

She laughed.

I didn’t.

I then reached out and crushed the wine can.   I’ve never been more butch.

Since  the couch was in the kitchen, I leaned forward and opened the fridge to pull out a nice Pinot Grigio.     A cold, dark bottle. Foiled cork,  fancy-ass French writing all over it.    Not cheap.    I leaned to my right and grabbed the corkscrew out the drawer.

“To hell with this canned shit.   If we’re going to continue this discussion, I need big girl wine”.

”Can I have some?” She asked.

“Earn it.   Groom my hair for 15 minutes and I’ll think about.”

She smiled then popped the top of her third can of wine.    “In Buddhism, I don’t know how long it would take to go from monkey to human, but in real time, you can go from friend to bitch in  no time flat!    That reminds me, I read an interesting article on quantum physics the other day”.

”Oh my God, please shut up.”

(Brief silence)

”Cheers?” I asked.

“Cheers”, she replied.

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