Cosmic Debris is a free humor column including science fiction humor, family humor, observational humor, and other types of humor
along with a few serious and/or poignant thoughts by award-winning newspaper columnist Gary Greenberg.
by Gary Greenberg
Cosmic Car Lot
Although we all know that we're dying all of the time, it's a real kick in the
butt when you find out it's sooner than later.
A good friend of mine is dying. Or so the doctors say.
The pain I feel now is intense. It's a part of life that none of us like, but
without which we'd be inhuman. No matter how much I hurt, however, there's a
sweetness to the pain because it's spawned from love and not hate.
I'd like to tell this friend of mine that these puny, often ill-fitting bodies we
have are just throw-aways. That we live again and again in a variety of ways. But I
know he wouldn't believe it. I'm not sure he understands that we can believe
whatever we want to believe, and if we have enough faith in our own visions, they
will be true.
I, myself, believe in reincarnation. This might seem strange coming from a
Philadelphia Jew raised in an era where science superseded spirituality. Oddly
enough, I came to this belief through lucid, near-scientific logic.
I figure it this way: Science tells me that when we die, we're worm meal with
less cognizance of the world that our annelid dinner guests. Jewish views of death
are more uplifting, but nebulous. Like Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi, we become one
with the force, and can only come back as special effects, if at all, in sequels.
Catholicism has pretty much the same thing, but it also has that Other place, which
gives followers a justified fear of dying.
None of these endings seem quite right to me. As a writer, I am keenly aware
of endings because I know that they are also beginnings to other stories.
While working on a book, I created a character who was into yoga and talking
to a dead guy. To develop her character, I had to read up on channeling and
reincarnation, among other things. Reincarnation made a lot of sense to me as a way
to deal with mortality. It was the perfect ending because it was a beginning. And I
made a conscious decision to believe in reincarnation because it is something I can
live with, even if I die. Or I should say, when I die. Before that time comes,
however, the mere thought that this life is just one of many has given me a
perspective that allows me to live this particular life to the fullest because I know
that what I don't accomplish in the here and now, I'll be able to accomplish in the
there and later. It's a wonderful philosophy for a guy whose wife calls him Mr.
Manana. In truth, it is the ability to separate spirit and body that is the key, and
this key unlocks the door to our own immortality.
My dying friend doesn't know much about reincarnation. He
probably believes it's mumbo-jumbo, just like I did before a character in my novel
taught me otherwise. One day, I brought him a copy of a book that helped me to
see this light. It's called Many Lives, Many Masters, and I believe it should be
required reading for the human race. I doubt my friend has read it, I hope he will.
In the meantime, maybe I can explain reincarnation in terms he can understand.
My friend has always been into cars, so much so I call him M.O.B., which
stands for Motor Oil on the Brain. So I say to him...
Imagine that your body is a car. It might be a Chevy, or Lincoln, or Corvette,
or the perfectly average Honda Accord. Whatever the brand, it's a pretty amazing
car that you drive through life because with proper care and maintenance, it usually
will repair itself, unless you get rammed by a drunk driver.
As you drive along the freeway of life, you pass by and convoy up with many
other cars, kindred spirits, so to speak. You might part and meet up again, or pass
and never see again.
Eventually, your car will break down. But no need for that AAA card. Another
car comes along--it might be a Yugo instead of the Rolls--but you don't care
because you really want to drive them all.
And so it goes, you drive through life in all sorts of cars, on all sorts of
roads, meeting all kinds other cars until you become such a good driver that you can
now handle aircraft, or a starship, or a time machine, or whatever other kind of
transportation might be available at the Cosmic Car Lot.
The thing to remember is that you are the driver and not the car. You don't
die just because your car skids on ice and rolls over a bunch of times. You just
brush the snow out of whatever's left of your hair and choose another car, or
maybe just take the first one that happens by. It's your choice, and if you so
choose, we'll meet up again, maybe even convoy for a while like we have on this trip.
I hope that my friend can understand reincarnation in these
terms. It's easier for me to think of coming back as something
other than a car, in part because virtually all of my automobiles
to date have ended up total wrecks and partly because I hate
working on them, cutting up my fingers and getting grease all
over everything. I like to think of it in more standard reincarnational terms: that we
come back as other people.
But it doesn't really matter how you imagine it; it's the concept that counts.
You might say, "It's a nice concept, Gary, but how can I believe it?"
To which I reply, "You can believe anything you want to
believe." I know this to be true because I have done it.
I, a Philadelphia-born, pseudo-scientific, Jew believes in
Of course, that doesn't wipe out the pain I feel tonight. Early in this trip, I
followed you everywhere. You were a good driver, and I learned a lot from you
before venturing out to get lost on my own. We've driven some different roads, but
always in the same direction, so we could meet up again and again. Now, it seems as
though we might soon be traveling different paths. That thought makes my heart
ache, for I've grown accustomed to having you near. Though we will always be
together spiritually, when the time comes, I'll miss your old jalopy.
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