Single channel video, 2012
I like going in and out of worlds. I want to believe in reincarnation. I want to believe that I’ll have another chance, that I’ll see people I loved in this life in other forms in the next. I downloaded a pdf about how to recall past lives. The book said you could remember past lives in dreams, in meditation or in hypnosis. The book said to imagine yourself in a tunnel, to imagine yourself covered in light, to imagine yourself with a spirit guide. If you do what the book says, the memories will just start coming.
But I’ve played so many video games and watched thousands of movies. It’s hard to know what memories happened to me and which come from other places. For example,I have these reoccurring dreams about an ancient ruined city on top of a grassy hill. There are collapsing arches and columns the color of sand. Decayed castles and homes. Sometimes I hike up the hill to get to them or sometimes I’m in a car. Every time I get near them, though, I wake up. Maybe it has something to do with a past life or maybe it has something to do with sitting in front of a Thomas Cole painting or watching Indiana Jones movies over and over again.
I don’t remember being in a lot of places but I feel like I have been. Sometimes I have a sensation that I’ve been in a place where I have never been, or lived in a time before I was born. I have notions of having been a solider or a pilgrim but maybe it’s from having watched Terrence Malik movies or playing a lot of Call of Duty.
I have also been witness to what seemed like other people recalling their past lives. I was around twenty and going a lot to learn meditation from a Theravandan monk. I went with a few friends and we would sit quietly together on pillows in a country house converted into a temple. Later, we would talk about technique or share questions. One day, after a sitting, my friend asked the monk what it meant to have visions during meditation. The monk asked what he saw and my friend told a story about how he was not himself, but an old man, sitting in an old house surrounded by his children. My friend was young and single and had no children. In his vision he was going over his will with his family, it was a very tense and sad moment. The monk told him this was probably just a memory from a past life, that this happens from time to time, and that my friend should forget it and keep concentrating on his breathing. I couldn't forget it, though, and was a bit jealous that my friend got to have a mystical experience. A few months later, while watching King Lear, I decided that most likely he had been reading that and was just day dreaming.
A year or two later when I was an international student, I was taking a class on Indian philosophy in a pagoda on a pond in the Andes just outside Quito. It was taught by a savant Frenchman who spoke 26 languages. He brought in aura readers, a flute player, yogis. When it came time to learn about reincarnation he decided to hypnotize a student. He asked for volunteers and an extroverted, very Americanized girl who spoke fluent English and drove a fancy car really wanted to try it out. The teacher laid her down in front of the class on a comfortable mat and covered her in a blanket. He did some sort of regression thing with her where he asked her to imagine being in a forest, with paths to walk down. When she walked down the paths she went deeper and deeper into her past, remembered her childhood, her infancy, followed by darkness, followed by strange memories. She started to talk about a sister she never had, about a conversation that happened in a model T, then about the desert, about the color blue, and a child being pulled from her arms. Later there was only darkness. The pagoda was so silent and still. Our teacher had her walk back down the same paths back to her body. When she came out of the hypnoses she began to cry. We didn’t know what to do. She was sobbing and repeating again and again in Spanish (which she rarely spoke around us): “I feel so alone, I feel so alone, I feel so alone.” Someone smart enough stood up and left the room, we all followed as the teacher consoled her. From then on the girl stopped dressing so fancy and didn’t wear any makeup. She wore baseball hats, hoodies and tennis shoes. She became introverted and nobody really talked to her anymore. We didn’t know what to say.