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Cosmic Debris
 by Gary Greenberg

Cosmic Car Lot

May 1997 -- 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.
    My dad is dying, and the pain I feel is intense. It's a part of life that none of us likes, 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 my dad 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 This might seem strange coming from a Philadelphia Jew raised in an era where science superseded spirituality. Ironically, 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. And Christianity treats it like a game show where you either win big and go to heaven or lose out and descend to the Other place, which gives most less-than-perfect people 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 my novel Dead Man's Tale, 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 good way to deal with mortality. It was the perfect ending to a life because it was the beginning of another one.

    And so, 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 life to the fullest because I know that what I don't accomplish in the here and now, I may 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 dad 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 dad has read it, though I hope he will.

    In the meantime, maybe I can explain reincarnation in terms he can understand. Since he has always been into cars -- so much so I call him M.O.B., which stands for Motor Oil on the Brain -- 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 vehicle that you drive through life because with proper care and maintenance, it will usually repair itself.

    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 later, 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 sorts of 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 dad 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.

    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 sure miss your old jalopy.

Dedicated to my dad, Buddy Greenberg, who died on June 19, 1997.

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