Rethinking Reincarnation

Memoirs of a Hippie

I am writing this off the top of my head, so even I don’t know where it will take me. For years I have believed that reincarnation works as I described it in an earlier blog called “Experimenting with Reincarnation.” I never doubted that I was wrong, or even could be wrong. The Buddhists talk about releasing themselves from the world of “samsara,” meaning the physical world in which our bodies live and act between birth and death. They also talk about freeing themselves from “ego,” which I think is the same thing, only using the living language of English as opposed to the almost dead language of “Sanskrit.” Latin is to us and our ancestors mainly a language of science and religion, so that while it is dead it is still being used today in very strict ways, but no one speaks it as an everyday language. In the Middle East, throughout the Indian subcontinent, and encroaching into the Far East, meaning Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India, Tibet, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and possibly even Sri Lanka, Sanskrit was the language of trade and economy of many peoples, thus affecting many Indo-European languages to the point it’s descendant languages were spoken by more people than those who spoke Latin-based languages, the languages that grew out of ancient Rome. And equally as Latin is still the language of science and religion, Sanskrit is still the language of scienceand religion in that area, but is also the language of philosophy, and even some of the spoken or written arts in subcontinental India and surrounding nations. Unlike Latin, however, Sanskrit is slowly being revived in certain areas, I would suggest possibly because Sanskrit is a more precise language, whereas, like English and other languages, words are becoming confusing, having more than one meaning through common usage.

So much for the history lesson, I just wish I could write in Sanskrit so I could be more precise in why I might be changing my mind about how reincarnation really works. Certainly, beyond death, there is or are (a) bank(s) or (a) reservoir(s) of collected wisdom that incarnating spirits bring to the physical world inside them. This wisdom doesn’t show up right away, of course, but as a child grows into a teen their personalities generally change to some extent, a change that becomes more and more apparent as the teen become a young adult, and beyond until we end up with people who all started out the same way at birth (knowing nothing) becoming older adults with such different characteristics it is unable to be explained by nature (DNA) or nurture (how they were raised) WITHOUT the colour of the background of reincarnation. I am not going to even try to rule out nature or nurture, because that would be foolish. Your DNA affects you physically, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Your nurture can affect you mentally, being brought up in a good home by loving parents or brought up surrounded by physical, mental, or sexual abuse including any combination of those three factors. Then there are the problems of the early death of a parent or sibling, entering the children’s services system where any kind of happiness or hell is possible, having good and loving friends or friends who are just using you for something you probably would not even realize until years later, if ever. That is what life is like in our modern society where parents own their children until they prove totally incapable of parenting a child or children.  Such children can very easily turn into adults with all kinds of neuroses or psychoses, just as children can who are born into rich families where the parents have no time for their children and they lavish them with money instead of love. All these conditions and many more can adversely affect how children become adults, if they ever grow beyond mentally remaining a child for life. And what of the children who grow up in a loving family, that is still no guarantee that they will become good people when they grow up? Most of these children will grow up to be good people, but not all of them. Some of the world’s most famous psychopaths or sociopaths were the product of good and loving parents and homes.  Conversely, not all people who grow up with physical problems and/or abusive parents or friends, or illnesses of the mind will become bad people. Who can know why? Not our psychologists and psychiatrists, that is for sure, because they aren’t allowed to even think reincarnation is real, or might have a hand in whether people grow up nice or not.

Here I offer myself as an example of a child who grew up with an abusive father, and a weak mother who died early of cancer, leaving my devil of a father to raise ten children alone. He sexually abused my three sisters, and physically and/or mentally abused all ten of us kids, even my little brother who was born with Downs Syndrome. Being the one with the “brains” of the family, I was probably the brunt of my father’s rage as he accused me more than once of “stealing my little brother’s brains.” I’m not going to say I didn’t have lots of medical and mental problems as I grew up and some that have lasted to today, as I sit here a 67 year-old man, living with a woman much younger than I (close to 20 years, and six cats) and with a complete litany of medical conditions. But in spite of all that, and other things that I did or had happen to me in life, I have a smile on my face and a Bachelor of Social Work in my pocket after finally graduating university at the ripe young age of 57. The other thing I have is a VERY STRONG sense of spirituality that I did not realize was so strong until many many years ago when an acquaintance (we didn’t know each other well enough to be friends) told me that I was alive way before my time, that I had an innate wisdom that far exceeded his mother and father put together. But not so much wisdom that when I was approached by a Buddhist monk about a year later, he looked deep deep deep into my eyes and said these words to me, and they were the only words spoken between us in that single meeting, “You’re not ready yet.” And with that he turned on his heel and virtually disappeared out the door of a restaurant where I was having a late snack before heading for home in an abandoned house in East Vancouver.

Those are the kinds of things that have happened to me in all kinds of circumstances, by people I had never met before.  Once a woman told me I scared her because my eyes were so old. Other people who read my poetry which I was writing in my “I want to become a poet” period, told me there was something in what they read that spoke to the future of life, a future they had never imagined. The most recent such event was only about 6 tears ago when I got into a taxicab in Edmonton, and the East Indian or Pakistani driver turned around to face me at a red light, and said, “You are very wise, you will never return to this world again. This is your last incarnation.” Then the light turned green, he put up the plastic screen between us, and did not say another word to me until the end of the trip, at which point I paid my fare and offered him a tip to which he put out his hand in a “stop” gesture, and said “It was my honour to drive you today.”

What am I to make of all these strange occurrences? The Buddhist monk was the most bewildering event in my life, though I have had many others that would be considered close seconds. However, it was his words that drove me after our very short encounter. I was already into spiritual studies on my own before that, but he inspired me to delve even deeper, and to study Buddhism to the best of my ability in the days before computers and the internet. There were very few books on Eastern religions and philosophies in Canada at that time, the Beatles had not yet travelled as a band to India, though George Harrison had had discussions with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sometime earlier when he went to India to study the sitar.  After the Beatles went east to study Buddhism there was much more interest in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Hare Krshna movement than ever before in the West, and it would grow because the Beatles led the way (again). Hinduism and Hare Krshna movements were about as attractive to me as was the Jesus Freak movement that had started on the West Coast around that same time. Young people were falling off the bus joining whatever group would take them in. And then along came Scientology and they were extreme, but that made them all the more magnetic to people who had never had anything. The youth of America had “dropped in, tuned out, and turned on,” so Timothy Leary had said, and they had been becoming hippies and flower children. Suddenly they were becoming desperately religious, but mostly not for the religions of their parents, those were passe and no fun at all. Christian-based religions  called for suffering and eternal damnation, with a slim possibility of reaching heaven if you could stay sinless for the rest of your life. Young people had been eschewing money and material things for drugs and excitement.  Now they were eschewing drugs and excitement for Eastern religions. The Western world was changing, and our beliefs about the world and life on this world were changing too. And one of the biggest changes for those years was the advent of the Buddhist and Hindu philosophies of reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation blew a wide swath through our subculture, affecting different people different ways.

I was (and still am) a hippie, but I was not doing drugs for excitement. I started with smoking marijuana, and after each time I smoked it I began to notice an increase in my ability to think. While I may have been speaking on a normal conversation level, my mind busy listening to what I was saying, and was translating my words inside my head, looking for hidden gems of wisdom that could be garnered from my words. And there were a lot of those, maybe nothing world-changing, but ideas that were changing how I functioned in the world.  At that time I was living off money earned by selling marijuana and hashish to people who wanted it, never to anyone who didn’t approach me.  And that was also the time that I started doing LSD (acid, we called it), the drug that really opened my mind to possibilities so far outside the box of normal thought that I couldn’t even see the box anymore.  Where were all these ideas coming from? I knew they were coming from me, from my mind, but how did they ever get there?

That was also the time that I became more careless in who I was selling drugs to. I was still only selling to people who wanted the drugs I was willing to sell, the list of two drugs I mentioned earlier, but now I was also selling acid, because I believed in it, and I believed it could help others the way it was helping me. Even so, as I said, I was getting careless, and I ended up selling drugs to two undercover RCMP narcotics agents. I was still living in Vancouver at the time, sleeping on the beach at English Bay, or at crash houses some of the more moneyed hippies were setting up. The two undercover agents, using the names of Sunset and Hart, befriended me and let me stay with them for awhile, as long as I turned them on to the dealers that were supplying those of us who sold the drugs on the streets. And I did a fine job of that, not realizing I was leading them to almost all the dealers in the West End of Vancouver, Kitsilano Beach, and even North Vancouver. At first I never clued into the fact that these two “fellow hippies,” who said they were AWOL from the army or something stupid like that, were not selling or using the drugs themselves, but were sending them back to “friends” in Saskatchewan where such drugs were said to be very scarce. I started to get nervous, something wasn’t going right, so one day I bought a bus ticket to Hope, which was all I could afford, and hitchhiked the rest of the way back home to Winnipeg where I started going back to school to finish my Grades 11 and 12. I was still keeping up on any news that came out of Vancouver, and when I heard that a number of people got busted by undercover narcs, and I read some of the names, I knew what had happened and that I was responsible for a lot of those people getting arrested and being sent to prison. I disappeared even deeper into normal society, and thanked my lucky stars that I got out of Vancouver in time. I took a part time job at a local grocery store to help finance my rent and meals while I was in school, and I thought I was safe.

to be continued…

3rd Answer to PUNISHMENT BY DEATH

The True Story of Rehabilitation

In Answer 2 PUNISHMENT BY DEATH I left you standing in a locked cell with your new cellmate, an open lower bunk bed waiting for you to make up your mind which of two bunk beds you were going to take, the lower bunk that looked unused, but your new cellmate claimed it as his, or the upper bunk upon which your new cellmate sat, and where his bedding warmed the mattress. Nervous as you are, still feeling shamed by your experience walking around nude in front of half a dozen uniformed guards, and then having a unknown doctor shoving his finger up your ass, feeling around for any contraband. Doesn’t he know you’re innocent of all charges? Doesn’t he know you don’t even know what kind of contraband to smuggle in, if you were going to smuggle something in? At last the finger was removed, and a line on a piece of paper checked. “Next,” the doctor had called, and you ran for the exit door. You didn’t want the guy behind you to see your shit running down your leg and leaving a line, no, adding to a line that was already on the floor but which you hadn’t noticed before. But that’s in the past. You’ll never have to live through that again. And you’ve got more immediate worries. Which bunk are you going to choose? Does it even matter? You say to hell with it, and sit down on the bottom bunk.

“Good choice,” the surly voice comes down at you from above, like God talking to Moses or Abraham. You take a deep breath and let it out slowly. And that is about the last time you feel safe while you are behind all those locked doors.

 

Being in jail is not like being in school, or even university. Nothing like work. You are told when to go to bed, and when the lights are about to be turned off. Come morning the lights come on, and something related to a fog horn is blown. You’ve got 10 minutes to shit, shower, and shave and get dressed for the day, but you are competing with your cellmate who wants to do exactly the same things. You quickly teach your body to get up 15 minutes before the light comes on, which is just a guess because you cannot wear a watch in prison, and there is no clock on the walls. Ten minutes after the lights come on, your cell door opens and you best get out fast. The door isn’t open very long. You join the other prisoners all walking in the same direction, walking down 6 flights of stairs, and into the mess room. Some trustee shoves a metal tray in your hands, and in no time more trustees have thrown dollops of mush, or eggs, or even sometimes bacon on your tray as the line forces you forward. You get about 8 minutes to eat and drink the slop they call coffee, then everyone is getting up and heading for the exit door while you see prisoners from another floor start to file in the entrance door. Any food or coffee you didn’t finish gets pushed into a giant garbage tub, and someone else collects the tray and spoon you used, just another dirty dish added to a growing pile of dirty dishes on what looks like a table on wheels with a garbage can stuck through a hole in the middle where the spoons end up. Your cup is unceremoniously thrown into another tub, smaller than the previous one, but used just as noisily. The room is a cacophony of sound that just about deafens you until you get out the exit door, and the sound level drops several decibels, telling you just how thick those walls are. Now people are walking in all directions, probably going to some kind of work or class or something. You have no idea what to do, until you hear your named shouted out across the floor by a guard. When you get almost to the guard, a short conversation ensues.

“You got any skills for a place like this?” the guard almost yells.

“Don’t know. I was a taxi driver before…”

In one smooth move the guard makes a tick on one column, then makes another tick in the box in front of the words next in line on the second column. “Yard duty.” the guards says with a straight face, “and I don’t want one piece of garbage on the ground when you finish before supper, and before you can say even one word the guard is already calling out another name, and you wonder what jobs the guy in front of you or the one behind you are getting. They’ve got to be better than yard duty.

 

Rehabilitation, you say, when do prisoners get rehabilitated to be better citizens when and if they ever get out of prison. For you, your rehabilitation program is learning how to pick up garbage off the ground, a highly needed skill on the outside. However long your sentence is, that is what you will be doing. Of course, there are times when psychologists offer their time to come and do group sessions for prisoners with specific problems, be it child abuse, a mental illness, PTSD, victims of racism, or whatever the good DR. is wanting to write a book on. Psychologists, psychiatrists, brain doctors, and a lot of other professionals need to publish books to keep in good standing with their Associations. Some write books by studying other books to put information from each book together in a new way, or they use old surveys to gather evidence pro or con the theory the survey was studying. But there are two specific populations that they use as subjects in new studies: university students, and prisoners. Neither group represents the “common people,” though, so their results are almost always skewed. University students do surveys either to impress a professor, or to make beer money without their parents knowing about it. Prisoners are never paid money, but they are paid in time away from whatever job they have been assigned to do. Neither population is trustworthy as a general rule, but the surveyers couldn’t give a damn. They’ll contort whatever evidence they are given to prove or disprove the theory they are writing about. That, hospital visits, trials for other offences, and conjugal visits are about the only things a prisoner can do to end the boredom. Even gang wars or other kinds of struggle are done just for the entertainment. Strikes and prison takeovers seem to be a thing of the past, but then I don’t read much news at all. Maybe they do still happen occasionally, but unless guards or visitors are being murdered they are not as newsworthy as they used to be. It’s all been done before, and for the most part the public do not want to hear about the plights of convicted criminals.

 

But if prisons are so boring, why is the recidivism rate so high? There are many factors in that statistic, and every person has different reasons for letting themselves get caught again, and again. 1) They don’t know how to do anything else except commit crimes. And while they are in prison, they learn better ways to do things, more ways not to get caught, but they are learning from people who were caught, so where is the logic in that.

  • They learn how to commit bigger crimes, to go from convenience store robberies to bank robberies, and how much more money you can make in the process. Criminals love to make money without having to work for it, and thus they go from stealing purses off little old ladies to pickpocketing, and armoured car robberies. They go from being “poor starving artists” to counterfeiters, or faking art, or stealing art that is worth millions that they sell on the black market for tens of thousands of dollars.
  • The thrill of it. Some thieves get orgasmic feelings from walking out of a business or home with something that does not belong to them. They start by stealing money from their mothers or fathers, and end up stealing fancy cars or fancy jewels. And there is always someone who will give them money for their stolen goods. Never close to the value of what was stolen, but they understand that getting ripped off by fast-talking fences still gives them more money than they could make in a year of slinging burgers in a McDonald’s Restaurant.

 

But those are the easy reasons for so many recidivists. Then there are the people who remember how they were treated in prison, like animals that had to be shamed into compliance. It might have been a guard who shamed them, or a warden, or the cop that arrested them in front of TV cameras, but now they want revenge, and they don’t particularly care who they take that revenge out on.

And then you have your psychopaths and your sociopaths who have no regard for other people or their property. Without medications these people are as unpredictable as a tornado, never going in a straight line destroying lives as if the people were dolls.

 

With help, all of these people can be made into good citizens.  But staying on medications for life takes the fun out of life. And fun is what they feel is their right, pursuing their happiness in whatever way they want to. And if they get caught, they just pull out their papers that say they are insane, and as soon as they are back on their meds and looking as normal as anyone can look, they have to be allowed out of jail. And they are free again, so who knows what they are going to do next.

 

The next time you look at the stats for recidivism rates, who do you blame for how high they are. The people who need help but never get it, or the prison system that is supposed to provide that help, but instead of hiring psychologists and social workers, they hire guards that are disgruntled police failures, or people who love to lord it over others, bullies all of them. Big adult bullies, who just love to push others around and say, That’s my job! I’m just doing what I’m told to do. And maybe that is what they are told to do, and that is why the bullies were hired in the first place.

 

But what else can we do? We can’t afford to run prison populations that overcrowd prison facilities. What else can we do, we have to protect the regular citizens of our nations. What else can we do? What else CAN we do?

 

That question has more than one answer, and in this blog I am only going to give you teasers for the next blog on PUNISHMENT BY DEATH. The very first thing you do is study those who were in prison once, and never went back. Another thing is taking the word punishment out of the adult population. You punish children when they do things the parent doesn’t like, actions they want to teach the child not to repeat. Third, you treat them with the respect any person wants to be treated with. And four, you use restorative justice every opportunity you have. Fifth, and last, or probably what should be done first, you deconstruct the nuclear family, and stop letting parents raise their own children , and make sure all children get a good start in life, without abuse, without poverty, without learning how to be bullies, but by giving them love, respect, and human contact of a meaningful kind. But who, besides me, is willing to look that deeply at the nuclear family, and realize that while it is responsible for creating non-criminal adults, it is just as responsible for creating criminal adults?

 

Where are the people with the strength to stand up and say, “It’s at least worth a trial, it can’t do any worse than we are already doing?