I’m pretty sure that I am Abraham Lincoln reincarnated.
Stick with me on this. First, let’s talk about reincarnation. I grew up in a “spiritual-but-not-religious” household, which I say only because “atheist” makes me sound like I have neck tattoos and “agnostic” is just religion’s version of a total cop-out (like “libertarian” for politics). So, within my “spiritual” upbringing, I was exposed to several different belief systems: we had a children’s bible on the bookshelf, a fat bald man on the mantle (fine, a bronzed Buddha statue), and an Indiana Hoosiers jersey in the basement (because sports is religion and, growing up, Calbert Cheaney was God).
Anyway, back to reincarnation. My parents were actually loose Buddhists. Reincarnation is a Buddhist idea, and so my parents would teach me all about reincarnation as they saw it: you die, but you don’t really die, which is great, and then your soul floats up in the air, and then it finds a new body to inhabit, and thus you end up looking like someone else. It’s like the whole Man-in-Black debacle in Lost.
Naturally, I was skeptical. Believing in soul transfer is sort of like believing in ghosts or unicorns. Plus, empirically it didn’t make sense: if we started out with just two souls (Adam and Eve), does this mean that all but two of us were born soulless? My mom convinced me that this wasn’t the case, that everyone is either given a new soul or a recycled one. So, in my adolescent need to latch onto irrefutable truths, I believed her and bought into this whole reincarnation business.*
How does reincarnation work? I’ve always imagined that it’s like going through customs at the airport. The customs officials are the arbiters of soul, where they examine your soul and make sure it’s passable into the next life. They scratch you, they sniff you, and they make sure you’re not carrying any illegal fruits or vegetables. Tangerines hidden in your rectum? Rejected! Bad souls are dumped down the chute; good souls keep on rolling. After a full-body violation, your customs official gives you the ticket to your next destination. You’re whisked away to take a shower, getting rid of all the airplane/past-life smell. And then, finally, you’re off to explore your new life in Tokyo/Brazil/Zimbabwe.
I like to think that the reincarnation airport is run by reality TV producers: they want all souls to have good stories, so they jumble them up a bit. If you were a man in one life, you’ll be a woman in the next. If you were J.P. Morgan in one life, you’ll be a German pauper in the next. Just imagine: in a past life, 6’8″ millionaire basketball star LeBron James could have been 5’3″ communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The E! True Hollywood Story would be fascinating.
The best part about reincarnation is that there is a limitless family tree: anyone could be your past-life dad. In trying to figure out my soul ancestry, I worked backwards, based on my own predispositions. Here is where I believe I came from:
Abraham Lincoln (Feb 1809 – April 1865): Honest Abe was probably a new soul, since he was born in an era of extensive population growth. He wore a beard. I love his beard. We’re kindred spirits.
Beatrix Potter (July 1866 – Dec 1943): (I assume it took customs a while to sort through all the souls coming from the Civil War) Beatrix Potter, the author of children’s books like Peter Rabbit, could write and draw… I would love to be her one day, except for the whole British thing. (See picture: she’s doing the 19th century version of sexy posing… again, kindred spirits).
(Here is where my soul falls off the map a bit. I blame it on WWII.)
Dennis Wilson (Dec 1944 – Dec 1983): Dennis Wilson, the founder of the Beach Boys and Charles Manson enabler, drowned in a boating accident in Marina del Rey. I came to the conclusion that Wilson was my past-life daddy when I lost my phone in Marina del Rey (wait for it)… on a boat. As T-Pain/KG says, “Anything is possible.”
So, there it is: my reincarnated family tree. Yes, my past-life selves have all been famous celebrities/literary geniuses/presidents; every once in a while, I may drop a little Peter Rabbit, Surfin’ USA, or Hip-Hop Emance-Proc on you. But don’t be intimidated. Because you never know — deep down, you could have the recycled soul of John D. Rockefeller… and if so, get ready for a life of peasanthood. It’ll be great TV.
* At one point, I had convinced myself that the reason for Buddha’s girth was because he held all the new souls in his stomach. However, once I realized what he would need to do to retrieve the souls, I dumped this idea… Pun intended …Yes, I’m twelve.