I am one of those romantics who find myself in love as often as possible, feeling those high frequency vibrations that accompany the force of attraction. That’s how I can sense, from the inside, how the whole world fits together. I am like the mountain climber who keeps going higher despite the dangers, because it is only at the summit that the whole view spreads out before him.
The current focus of my attentions are two young cellists from Croatia who have never heard of me, but whose music – available to all of us on YouTube – makes me cry. I listen to these young men every day – they play everything from Bach to hard rock – and I fall asleep to them at night, reassured that there is still beauty in this world gone mad.
I am a woman in love.
But it goes deeper than just having a crush on two beautiful young men on the other side of the world; in some way, I recognize them, as if I’ve known them before from somewhere at some other time. It’s hard to explain.
I pore over maps of Croatia; I study people’s faces in their audiences; I listen to the cadences of the language they speak in interviews; I laugh at their sense of humor.
I’ve never been to Croatia, but I came close once many years ago when I was in Ancona, a coastal city on the Italian side of the Adriatic, where I could look across the water and see the outlines of Yugoslavia. It was a windy day and walking along the beach with an Italian friend, we staggered against winds strong enough to knock us over.
The land on the other side of the water looked peaceful from a distance, but we knew a nasty war was raging there at the time. Knowing there were people being shot and killed beyond our sight as we walked there hand in hand, I broke down, feeling somehow that I was crying for my land, my people.
I had no idea why.
I still don’t know, but something odd that might be relevant happened several years ago in my studio when a few of us were trying out ways of using dance and sound as techniques for altering consciousness without drugs. We were exploring ancient healing practices by dancing into trance states to induce a state of relaxed concentration, a kind of meditation through movement. We kept surprising ourselves with what was coming through, from long forgotten dreams, to singing in the syntax of languages we did not speak.
One day I was shocked by something I had no frame of reference for, just the experience – a violent death scene from another place, another time. My death.
I am being dragged over cobblestones behind a pony cart with a rope around my neck. I stagger and fall and am pulled through the village to the sea, scraped and bleeding. My progress is witnessed by people on either side, all of them known to me. I am male, epileptic – the village idiot, as it were. I’ve stolen something and I will die for it.
It was vivid. I could feel the rope tightening around his throat, see the villagers watching from their doorways, feel the jar of rough stones on his body, see the pony driver’s expressionless face when his body is dumped on the beach.
It shook me up for days.
I’d never heard of this form of torture, so I did some research and learned that death by dragging was in fact practiced in parts of Europe during the 15th century, especially around Eastern Europe, including the land more recently known as Yugoslavia.
Then I tried to forget about it.
I wonder – was that ‘me’ in another lifetime? Was it pure fantasy or a real memory? Is reincarnation a literal fact or not? And what does the word “reincarnation” actually mean?
I’ve learned that almost every culture in the world – indigenous as well as Judeo-Christian – tells a version of the Myth of Eternal Return and in each case the story goes something like this:
Before we come into physical existence we are the ‘not-yet-born,’ and once born we are the ‘living-on-earth’ where we reside for a human lifetime to receive the lessons and trials of the physical world. At “death” our souls – the eternal part of our nature – return Home to absorb the lessons of our lifetime on Earth before cycling back in for our next set of experiences in a material ‘form.’ The cycle continues for as many lifetimes as it takes to mature into full awareness of the Divine aspect of existence.
In other words, Death only exists at the level of our bodies, which do indeed wear out sooner or later. (Ask me – I’ll tell you all about my aging knees…) But our souls are immortal, our consciousness intact and our hearts full of feeling even after our forms have let go. We do not disappear from the world!
There is nothing to fear, really.
We belong to the world by definition; there is nowhere else to go. When an earth-life is over, ‘Life’ and consciousness remain. In Aramaic the word for Death means “not here, present elsewhere.”
I figure I’m a student in the fancy boarding school of Earth and my curriculum is to learn how to love. That’s probably why I’ve kept on trying it out with cellists from Croatia and flutists from India; my dear husband; the two little girls across the street, my sweet land-mates at the Wild and Radish Farm and all the uncountables from a long life of many adventures in many places.
An adventure I would not have missed for the world!
I have no idea what graduation from this school will look like, but I’ll find out when it’s time.
As we all will.