One of my better lives

About fifty years ago, a psychic told me that this was going to be one of my better lives.

Compared to those whose families are snuffed out by crime, war, disease, death, and other misfortunes, she got it right. This lifetime has been rather volatile and problematic enough that sometimes I wonder, “better than what?”

Well, I know what happened in some of those past lives, and sure as heck wouldn’t want to return to them. I died in at least one war and was an abused child in another life. I carry such memories just like memories of times gone by in this life.

Yes, I believe in reincarnation and that many of those involved with us in one life were involved with us in “earlier” lives. No, we are never rats or cats or zebras or any other animals. I’ve believed this since I was in high school. Suffice it to say, I was at odds with the beliefs of the Presbyterian Church on this matter (among others).

I read an article today about an author whose therapist suggested she write fiction or nonfiction about the things that brought her to therapy. Perhaps she could change the endings and show herself as triumphant rather than in deep depression. I’ve never been able to keep a journal, but many writers have found journals help them make sense of things.

Many things in my life had been fictionalized into themes and scenes and brief moments in a lot of my fiction. I wasn’t writing to “get even” (a common joke about crossing an author and ending up in his/her next novel) but to make sense of things. Oddly enough, the worst parts of this “better life” turned into my best fiction. Those moments were the kinds of conflict the stories needed. Had I lived in an ivory tower with $10000000000000 in my bank account, I wonder what the hell I would have written about.

Perhaps “better lives” means not getting killed but having enough angsty stuff to write about. Okay, as a writer, I can see that.

If you write, do you find more “quality material” in the worst moments of your life than the best? If you don’t fictionalize those worst moments into books and stories you publish, do you come to terms with them in a journal and/or a bottle of Xanax?

Writing, whether it’s journaling or published fiction/non-fiction, is a good escape valve for all that ails us. At least, it’s kept me reasonably sane. (I’ve always thought being 100% sane is a mistake.) At any rate, I believe we create our the realities within which we live. So, I guess I can say that I wanted survivable slings and arrows. An old friend once told me she thought life as, at best, boring. I can’t see that at all. This “better life” has not been boring, far from it. I couldn’t have tolerated that.

But you, whether you write or not (one way or another), how do you feel about this lifetime (even if you believe you are given only one of them)? Has it been better than average–whatever that means? Yes or no on “better than average,” has it suited your needs? For me, the answer is “yes.” Like you, I am what I have lived, and it’s difficult to imagine anything else.






Have we met before?

“You meet the one you meet amongst thousands and tens of thousands of people, amidst thousands and tens of thousands of years, in the boundless wilderness of time, not a step sooner, not a step later. You chance upon each other, not saying much, only asking softly, ‘Oh, you are here, also?’”

–“Love,” by Eileen Chang, translated by Qiaomei Tang

Countless times, I’ve wanted to say, “Oh, you are here, also?”

But I usually don’t because I don’t want to argue or freak people out. I want to say, “The world is vaster than we know and so are we,” but again, that scares people even though it speaks of a wondrous, seemingly infinite unity and breadth of the soul to me.

Some early Christians believed in reincarnation, but that belief–like many others–ended up on the cutting room floor. During my more volatile youth, I said that I thought the church where I grew up was–without malice–leaving out most of the big picture. This caused me no end of trouble. Outside my fiction, it has, more often than not, been better to keep silent since then.

In the old days, there was a fair amount of malice and politics destined to police what people thought and felt. I’ve read a lot of historical accounts of this, but frankly, I’ve never understood the uproar about differences in beliefs and interpretations. Such feelings have come around again in today’s political arena in left vs. right debates. So I understand how mob mentality works, but I don’t understand how one’s fear can be so great they need to join the political or religious mob.

But, I digress.

It seems likely to me that the people who are important in my life now might well have been important in another lifetime many years or centuries ago. If so, this would make us a timeless extended family whether we recognize each other or not. I think a lot of people ponder this, though many of them discount it because they don’t consider the idea might be true.

Knowing whether it’s true or not probably isn’t required for us to live spiritual, highly moral lives. If I knew you in ancient Rome, I’ll still treat you fairly today even if I’m consciously ignorant of our previous friendship or previous discord. Our decisions are based on who we are right now. Or, at least, that’s how I see it. However, I think people tend to communicate with each other at an unconscious level or even in their dreams and that this impacts many of their “real world” decisions and ideals.

But maybe not. It has always seemed better to me to believe that what I don’t know about the true workings of the universe will always be greater than what I know about them. I don’t like the word “impossible” because it doesn’t seem true to me even though I don’t know why it isn’t true to me. Have we met before?

Maybe so, but I don’t know where or when. Perhaps we can say, ““We’ll always have Paris.” We might have had something, somewhere. Odds are we did.


Malcolm R. Campbell writes magical realism novels (are you surprised?), the next one of which (“Lena”) will be released August 1 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.