When you are raised believing in reincarnation, it seems so natural. So fair and logical. And when I say “believing in” I mean to say that it was a main component of our faith system. It was integral to the theology. It wasn’t some vague notion of having been someone awesome in your past life which thus makes you somehow more awesome by some kind of cosmic association and then will you please pass the carrots.
No. It was, everyone was, quite serious.
When you are raised believing in a loving God who created a unique you, with all your marvelous talents and delicious quirks, your precious individuality that could never have existed and will never exist outside of you, that you, personally, are inherently worthy of respect and love merely by virtue of your existence, and you know it and believe it and love it, you will look at your mother with wide, incredulous eyes the first time she tries to explain the concept of reincarnation to you and you will say “that makes no sense!”.
Yes. You will say it and you will mean it.
And that is the problem with reincarnation. Either you, you, YOU, as an individual, the person you are, who God willed you to be, matter. And other people, themselves, those imperfect, flawed, regular people, people just like you and me, matter OR there is reincarnation. You can’t have it both ways.
Now before I go on (and to those of you whose heads are spinning and who wish I would stick to goat anecdotes, I’m truly sorry for delving into such a niche topic. But I heard a whisper, so I answered), let’s be clear on the kind of reincarnation I’m referring to, just in case there are other types, because with this sort of thing there so often are.
I am talking about everyone reincarnating every time they die unless they have lived the sort of life or been given the sort of thing or have had the sort of luck (more on that another time if you demand, but I think for now we can leave it at that) that allows your soul, which is you, to go to heaven. We didn’t call it heaven, but let’s agree to label it that today. And if they don’t go to heaven, people don’t just come back as other people. No, they can reincarnate as goats or blades of grass or trees or heiresses to multimillion dollar fortunes, all depending on what they’ve done in this life. Well, what their body has done in this life. Because you are not your body. You are a soul trapped in a body and your job is to do enough good things and follow the rules so that you can escape the “cycle of birth and death” and finally go to heaven.
Gosh I hope that makes even a little bit of sense. Because what I really want to talk about is how this kind of thinking made me a self-loathing jerk and how the answer to all the self-esteem questions of our age can be answered with three little words: God. Loves. YOU.
So, back to how you can’t have it both ways.
Believing in reincarnation requires that you distance yourself from your self. The only self you can really know, which is the body you’re using right now to read this. Reincarnation says “this body’s just a lump of flesh” (an actual line from a kids’ song we all used to sing when we were little). Don’t get attached to it. In fact, if you loathe it a little, that would probably be best, because then you won’t be in danger of loving this material illusion of self. The self that you are is a soul, a soul you can’t possibly know. A soul that has been in other bodies (which you don’t know) and may very well be in other bodies in the future (which you simply can’t know).