My cousin Camille read what I recently wrote about the afterlife and offered her opinion on reincarnation. A dabbler in astrology, she said something to the effect of "I believe each of us has to progress through the twelve zodiac signs and develop the strengths inherent in each before we can finally bid this world adieu."
The twelve signs, from first to last, are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. My cousin is an Aries, which according to her theory means she has many future Earthly lives to endure. Something as an Aries she probably won't mind, since the first zodiac sign is known for its tremendous zest for life. As an Aquarius I find myself towards the end of the road, and this suits someone with chronic fatigue, or as Camille calls it, ennui. Where's the Aries' joie de vivre? Not to worry, as there's nothing that a glass of champagne won't fix. Here's to you.
But my dear Camille finds herself in excellent company. Evidence suggests that the father of Christianity, Jesus Christ, was not born on December 25th as tradition would have us believe. Such a birthday would have made him a Capricorn, placing him far along the spectrum of the soul's natural progression - but not farther than me! In fact, many theologians suspect that the Savior was actually born in the spring, because the Bible has it that shepherds were watching over their flocks on the night of his birth, which is something they would have done not in the winter but in late March or April. Young soul or old, Christ's injunction to love one's neighbor as oneself and cherish each other with a divine, selfless, unconditional love has stood the test of time. That is, it's still preached, if not practiced. But hopefully you are a unicorn. That is, an exception. That is, super hot and not that crazy. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this.
Speaking of exceptions, if like me you find the notion of endless Earthly iterations tiresome, there exits a fast track to spiritual evolution. Another spiritual text, this one the Hindu's Yoga Vasishta, reveals that the Eastern counterpart to Jesus Christ, Sri Rama by name, developed his own secret to supreme contentment. In the words of the great Godman himself, “Unless you consider the happiness of others as your own, you can never be at peace.”
This wise counsel provides a nifty complement to my cousin's theory. For in the soul's journey, it may be necessary to accumulate as many different experiences as exist under the sun. This could very well entail repeated sojourns to Earth, whereby the soul after repeated lifetimes in a variety of bodies accumulates such an abundance of knowledge that the powers that be proclaim one fully developed and release one from the shackles of the flesh. But this could very well require eons upon eons of living. I'm exhausted just walking my dog Max up and down the hill every afternoon. The notion of having to come back to Earth once, let alone one hundred and one or one thousand and one times, makes me view existence as even more of a burden and scream for a release from such misery. Imagine how many bowel movements you undertake in a lifetime, then multiply that by a thousand, and see if you don't develop indigestion just thinking about it.
Ever heard of the phrase "Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins"? This supposedly American Indian proverb holds the key to life everlasting; that is, freedom from return to Earth, which can be both valley of death and vale of tears. Moccasins are made of deerskin, but if like me you're opposed to animal cruelty you can still abide by this age-old advice without the senseless slaughter of one single creature.
See, you don't actually need to step into another person's shoes to understand his point of view. You can simply use your imagination. Put yourself in the position of those around you, and ask yourself how you'd feel if in their metaphorical shoes (predicament, pleasure). By considering the perspective of everyone you come in contact with, you can live lifetimes within lifetimes. Celebrate with the victor, cry with the bereaved, become enraged with the indignant, and frolic with the child. This is one of the reasons why you have a mind. The imagination is like a time machine and spiritual accelerator. It allows you to be in several places at once and to learn and grow and develop at hyper speed. So do it.
You may even find yourself waxing poetic, like the author of that Indian maxim, which by the way is not native-American in origin but as I just found straight from the pen of an American poet. Her name is Mary Lathrap, and you can find her work here. Happy empathizing!