I’ve been thinking about rebirth a lot, lately and wondering why. All that rebirth stuff — I’ve always thought of it as merely wishful thinking, codified into religious precepts, to ease the mind regarding inescapable misery.
Rebirth, opiate of the masses. Or something like that.
Rebirth, the place we put our hopes and dreams. Next time. Next time, things will be better. Now what’s the likelihood of that? Hopes and dreams are for this life, aren’t they?
And that’s what troubles me about the whole rebirth thing. It feels like giving up. It feels like letting go, but not the good kind of letting go — as in I really don’t need this. But the letting go in disappointment of the things we cannot or will not have. It feels like a way to talk about what we want without taking responsibility for them. Without saying, goddamn it, you know, I could make this happen. My life could take on this other pattern. If I were willing to take the steps to make it happen.
Or: life, just surprise me.
I’m up for that. Throw me what you’ve got, and I’ll be grateful. Throw me what you’ve got, and I’ll just deal. Hand me my allotted time, and like clay, I’ll mold it myself. And remold it. Again and again. And never bake it into a hard and brittle form that might look pretty for a while, but drop it and it cracks. At first just hairline. But it’s broken, And then it really breaks. I’ll take my lump of clay, instead, and play! Why not? Is that too immature? What children do?
Are we supposed to find a form and stick to it, and say okay, this is me this time. Next life I will be different?
I do actually believe in rebirth.
I believe in rebirth every year when spring comes. Every year when those dead looking trees of mine show signs of something yet to come. Not quite buds yet, but a kind of swelling at their tips, just waiting to burst forth into the welcoming air. I am fascinated by springtime. I lie on the stones and stare into the soil and watch things grow before my eyes. And watch busy little creatures scurry by. And everybody’s just gearing up for here-it-comes folks, here it comes! The little folk know, The grasses know. The buds know. The blossoms too. Except for the annuals, the rest all know about rebirth. Bummer. Being an annual.
So. I’ll take the rebirth of the trees. Rebirth that we call springtime, that I will accept.
The ancient Egyptian word ‘neter‘ tends to be translated as ‘god’ or ‘the gods’ — and that seems wrong to me. Or maybe it’s just right: the ancient gods are personifications of natural forces. The wind, the storm, rivers and seas. Thunder. Lightning. Birth and death. Given names and anthropomorphic figures, We pray to them, hoping they’ll be kind.
But neter is no more and no less than our word ‘nature.’ And either we’ve forgotten to think of it as sacred, or the peoples of the ancient world were just plain stupid. And came up with this notion of afterlife and rebirth and next time, to cope with the terrible misfortunes dealt them by fate.
Or maybe it’s we rational modern (and post-modern) folk who are the dumb ones. Not recognizing rebirth when we see it. Not taking a chance in making things anew. Not knowing there’s volition and there’s action. Not seeing our dreams so vividly and working to make them true.
I’m in Brooklyn, and it’s bitterly cold outside. The air is clear and crisp, but not quite clean. No sign of life stirs in the trees outside my window, save the birds, they’re there. They’re waiting. Waiting. They know what’s coming. And they don’t need religion or prayer to make it happen. Oh. Noisily, they’re singing. Well, I don’t care. Call it what you will.
Neter. Pretty glorious. With no apologies to winter. Gratitude only, for all the fine work done underground while we weren’t paying any attention at all.
Did you ever hear a tree say, “next time, next time it’ll be better”?
No. They just make it happen, as best they can.
And if they’re an apple tree, well, they just don’t expect the pears. “Life, just surprise me,” they said one winter. Did they know about grafting? Or do the gods just answer prayers?
Rebirth. Shall I just wait? Or sing? Or ask to make it true? Asking is so rude, don’t you think?
Just surprise me. I think that’ll have to do.