Just My Luck – Chapter 8 – Part 2
How Old is Your Soul?
As I’ve considered the notion that my soul experienced earlier lives (either here or elsewhere) and is destined to live more, I’ve found it comforting to find others I respect who are speculating similarly. My mentor for the first 11 years of my corporate writing career, Vladimir P. Chernik (one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege to know, admire and love as a great friend), strongly believed in reincarnation.
In that context, he claimed to subscribe to the theory that one’s birthday held the key as to how ‘old’ one’s soul currently is. Why not? The theory qualifies as a possibility.
From almost anyone else, I would have scoffed at this idea as a silly parlor game, but Vladimir was an unusually intelligent man whose demeanor and views on life were spiritual, practical and nearly always optimistic. He also had a robust sense of humor and was not above a good practical joke, so take or leave his speculation on this as you choose.
If only just for fun, here’s how Vlad calculated the age of one’s soul, measured in lives, not years:
- To begin he’d simply translate a person’s birthday into its numerical expression. My birthday is October 8, 1951 or 10 08 1951.
- Now, add those three numbers: 10+08+1951= 1969.
- Now add those integers: 1+9+6+9=25.
- And finally add those last integers: 2+5=7.
The aim is to decant the original numbers until you arrive at a solution between 1 and 9.
So, according to Vlad’s ‘ancient system’ I am currently living my 7th of 9 lives on earth (he didn’t consider life on other planets). Mine then is a fairly mature soul. My wife was born 05 30 1952 which takes us to 1987 and 25 and 7. Vladimir proclaimed we were well matched. (I was deeply gratified and relieved to learn this.)
All right, tell me Vladimir, what happens to the soul of a person who will be born on May 26, 2030 [5+26+2030=2061 = 9] when s/he dies? There is no 10th life, that would be 1+0: a first grader. Will this soul, like the feline, run out of lives at 9?
Well Jim,that depends on the soul. If it’s mature enough it can move on (to another planet perhaps?). If not, it’s back to the starting line, the first grade. A soul keeps going through the system over and over until it matures sufficiently to move on.
And then where Vlad?
Where does one go when s/he graduates? Anywhere s/he wants.
You Can’t Take It (All) With You
In the course of my soul searches I’ve wondered whether a soul might have been able to retain just one valuable, hard earned lesson from each previous life for use in later lives. After all, some lessons are so costly they ought not to expire.
This idea leads me to two questions:
- What learning might I have had previously that helped me in this life?
- What learning this time around would I choose to take with me into my next life?
In answer to the first question, I may have something that may qualify as such a lesson.
I mentioned earlier that I was neither among the very popular or the outcasts in my adolescent and high school years. Charlie Brown was well intentioned, but not cool. But unlike Charlie Brown and many adolescents, I did not suffer the neuroses of doubting my innate worth and my lot in life in the future. Somehow, it didn’t bother me in the least that I wasn’t among the junior high school social elite, the super athletic, or the political leadership of my high school student body. I cannot put my finger on why I was content to bide my time and be satisfied with being fairly ordinary during those years, but I inherently knew that my “glory days” (to take a page from Bruce Springsteen’s songbook) were surely ahead of me. I didn’t want the high water mark of my life to be a membership in a high school fraternity.
My calm contentment and my quiet confidence in my future came from within. I started to emerge from the shell during my college years. When I did prepare for and assume leadership roles in my education, career and my private life, they were meaningful.
Had I learned in a different time and place that I could depend on better days ahead? I think it’s entirely possible. I have no other explanation for it.
I do not remember where, when, or how I first encountered the thought that my “self” might be my soul, but that idea resonated with me from childhood. Might our proclivities* (an excellent word) actually be the left-over products of experiences from previous lives? Could child prodigies actually be drawing on talents and learning acquired in an earlier time and place?
Now the second question. What, if anything, would I want my soul to remember and carry over into my next lives?
- Never run into the street without checking for cars first?
- Don’t let yourself be in love with two potential life mates at the same time?
- Don’t let your mother die alone?
- You can love them but don’t bet on the Chicago Cubs?
If given a choice, the greatest lesson I have learned so far in this life is that despite the systems, rules, laws, technology, and achievements of our species, we can never completely harness or predict what will happen, luckily and unluckily, in the fundamentally random world of events. Our control over our environment will always be incomplete, so anything may happen to anyone at any moment. All we can do is live our lives accordingly.
If you believe that your soul is immortal, the possibilities are endless.
For all I know human life on earth could be Vladimir’s proving ground in which souls develop and mature. It could be a soul must self-improve in each life and reach a specified level to advance. We might have to return to life at the testing ground, earth, time and time again until qualifying for the next step.
We all may be at various stages of (for lack of a better word) maturity, but we who live all have souls. Contrary to the egocentric nature of humans and most Western religions, I like to believe that all biological living beings, not just humans, also might have souls in various stages of development. Why not? Are we so neurotic that we simply have to be the only soul-bearing beings? Is it inconceivable that after a soul graduates from human life it might advance to canine life?
Okay, don’t abandon me here in disgust at how strange I’m getting with this. It happens that I have a spectacular dog, and I envy some of his traits. I believe him to be capable of love, and I love him in return. My point is I don’t know, and so the possibilities of where an immortal soul may go, or what it form it may take, are truly endless.
This idea that animals may have souls first came to me one day in the narthex (area between the main entrance and the last row of pews) of our church after a Sunday service. One of our parishioners, Abby (not her real name) a single woman in her early 40s, had lingered there to have a relatively private moment with the minister. I was there saying good-bye to a friend. Abby was visibly miserable and could no longer hold back her tears. When our minister, Richard (not his real name), asked what was the matter, Abby tearfully told him that her dog, a retired racing greyhound she’d rescued five years before and her constant companion, had died a few days earlier. Richard couldn’t hide his incredulity for her concern. Abby continued, “I just want to know that I will see Rocket (not the dog’s real name) again in Heaven when I die.” Reverend Richard, probably the worst minister I ever met after SFH disrespected my father, actually scoffed before saying, “Of course not. Dogs don’t have souls.” He then spun his heels and walked away leaving Abby in deeper distress. Nice guy, huh?
I had to step in. “Abby, please don’t listen to him. He doesn’t know anything.”
She replied while still crying, “But he’s a minister.”
“Unfortunately, that’s true. But on this issue he is dead wrong.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“Let me ask you something first,” I said. “Did you love Rocket?”
“Yes, I loved him dearly. He was wonderful. No question about it”
“I remember him from the Blessing of the Animals,” I truthfully told her. “I’m sure he was easy to love.”
“OK then. Let me ask you, did Rocket love you?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Yes, I’m sure of it. If he could, he would have been right beside me all the time. I could see his love in his eyes every day.”
“Well then, there you have it,” I said. “Where does love come from, your brain? No. It comes from your soul. And it stands to reason, if he loved you,- and I agree with you that he did – he had to have a soul. Where there is love there is a soul. Rocket had a soul and it still exists. Souls don’t die when the body expires, so I am as certain as I can be that because your soul and Rocket’s have a bond you will be together again in Heaven.”
That was the first time I articulated this idea that had been bubbling around in my head, and I knew I believed it exactly as I’d said it.
Ultimately, I will only know absolutely for sure that my soul is immortal when I die. Until then, the best anyone can possibly do is believe, or don’t. My “self” feels like it is immortal, and I want it to be. But if I am wrong in my belief about the soul’s immortality, I will never know it because at the moment of death, I – my “self” – will truly and irrevocably cease to exist.
I will simply “not be” forever. It’s hard to imagine.
Is the absence of pain worth the loss of joy and being?
Each of us will find out some day. “To be, or not to be.” In the meantime, the best we can do is be happy, hopeful and content.
*proclivities – innate tastes, preferences, desires, appetites, tendencies
© 2016 James C. Ash