This is a bit worrying…

For those who don’t know, WordPress offers statistics on daily views and the locations of daily viewers.  I can often guess who has been reading this blog based on this data.  If you get more than one view, it also tells you how many users gave you that many views.

It would seem that I’ve had a spike in views, but they’re all coming from the same place.  Said person viewed my blog 20 times yesterday.

Given their location, I’m pretty sure I know who they are and given the way they’ve been behaving recently, I’m a little concerned.

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Similarity/Dissimilarity

One thing I have grappled with for a long time- and my previous post will explain many of the reasons why- is the apparent dissimilarities between what I am in this life and what I know John was in his own time.

I suppose the different prejudices and sexual identity are easy enough to explain if you believe what the sages have been saying for thousands of years, that passions are tied to the body and we, as an entity, are without passion inherently.  That does seem to bear this out.

But finding any common ground is tricky.  I could just as easily keep grasping at straws with apparent similarities that may be coincidences, or ignore every small similarity until I miss something fundamental.

That gap in understanding between what I am in this life and what John was is part of the reason I will always have a kernel of doubt that I was this person in another life.  But for the extent of the memories and the clues that lead to a positive match, I would have hung up the notion that we were ever the same person a long time ago.  

That is, being the same person is the most simple and elegant explanation for sharing memories with a first world war British soldier shy of insanity and self-delusion.  I will never be entirely free of those shadows of doubt either.  It’s so easy to put together the pieces in a way that they fit favorably, and I’ve caught myself doing it more than a few times.  

So who am I, and who was John Harris?  How do we compare?

I am a US national, born and raised (but spent a good portion of my life on the Continent and in the UK).  John was an Englishman through and through.

I am politically fairly progressive on most issues.  I have no memory of John’s political affiliations.

I am transgender male to female and attracted to men.  John was cisgender male and attracted to women.

I am an avid writer and a (currently small-time) novelist.  John was likely literate based on the statistics of the time, but I have no memory of what extent that literacy extended to.  I do not know of any diaries or letters by John but I would love to find one.

I did not join the military in the early 2000s in part because I was a conscientious objector.  John was not a conscientious objector and very likely joined shortly after seeing a recruiting poster.

I grew up in the suburbs in southern urban sprawl; John grew up in a town with the countryside on his doorstep.

John was trained in rifle use; I was able to use a bolt-action rifle competently the first time I held one.

John was fascinated with aircraft, if my memories are any indication.  I share that interest somewhat but am more interested in cars.

Our native language is English for both of us, and our upbringing was Protestant Christian in both lives, though the outcome of that upbringing is very different in my case.

Now I think you can all understand why I can never decide whether to use the first person or third person when talking about the memories I’ve had.  It would seem, if my notion of being reincarnated holds any water, that I have been two people with very little in common with each other.  

I find that much stranger than having too many things in common.  It really makes me wonder what it is that defines us, or if the Buddhists were right and there is no permanent, immutable “self” that survives us life-to-life. 

In other words, maybe we do die.  Perhaps not to the extent that we might have thought, but undeniably, a part of who we are dies along with the body.  Mortality is more complex than we imagined, but it is still mortality.

Something I’d Like to Tell Everyone

I’m sure some of you have been wondering whether I’m male or female.  I don’t think I actually state anywhere the sex of myself or my partner.

Well, there’s a reason for this.

The truth is, I’m male-to-female transgender.  Up until around last September, I wasn’t sure I wanted to bother transitioning.  But as I came to know this past life of mine, I started to realize that I was braver than I knew.

It feels weird, telling everyone I’m something that I could never have been in my past life.  It makes me wonder why, as well as I can remember, I was a very straight biological male.  At least, I don’t remember anything with men happening in Armentieres, but I do remember the girls.

So even though I’ve got a huge boost of courage from knowing that nothing I will ever face will be as bad as Ypres, I have a lot of questions about what these things, gender and sexual orientation, actually are.

I’m the same physical sex, but that’s where the similarities between what I am now and what I was as John end.  I’m attracted almost exclusively to men in this life.

It makes me think that sexual orientation and gender really are something bound thoroughly to the body and the physical brain rather than the higher consciousness or mind or soul or whatever you want to call it.

Regardless, I shudder to think what our boy John would have thought of me!  He was raised a Victorian, and probably got nauseated at the thought of two men in the physical act of love, and would have been bewildered by the fact that someone born male who feels at odds with their physical sex can, legally, become a woman in our society.  Even I feel like it’s a great length to go to in the pursuit of happiness, but I say that with enthusiasm, not derision.

I suppose it says a lot about how much of our social foibles get lost between lives.  I think these are probably just so secondary to who we really are that our prejudices don’t survive us.

So if our prejudices don’t survive us, then maybe there’s hope for the future.  If we can shed the things we hate because we are told to and start anew, then maybe with time we’ll lose the need to hate entirely.

I Need to Go Back

I feel an overwhelming need to go back and re-trace my steps as John Harris.

I want to start where it all ended, and work my way from L’Epinette and Ferme Buterne through Armentieres, Ypres, Shrewsbury, Hereford, East Coker, and finally Yeovil.  I want to see if I can find the graves of William and Jane Harris.  I want to take a piece of the willow that grows over that grave in France and put it by the war memorial in Yeovil.

Trouble is, it’s doubtful I’ll ever get to do this trip.  I make very little off my books, and only have enough money to survive.  Steady jobs for someone like me are hard to come by (I have no real skills or qualifications other than writing) and I’d just feel wrong begging for handouts to go do this because then I’d just look like I was trying to weasel a trip to Europe out of people.

I estimate the cost of the trip would be about $4,000 for just me, and if I took my partner along it would be double that.  

I might be very old by the time I can do this.

It’s Always With Me

Even when I don’t post much, even when I haven’t had any memories vivid enough to remark on in a while, the experience of seeing the world through the eyes of a soldier in the First World War is something that is always with me, in everything I do.

I think more carefully about the decisions I make in this life.  Friedrich Nietszche, in one of his rare moments of brilliance, remarked that we should live in such a way that we would want to repeat eternally.  I live by that now.  I want to live in a way that, if I remember it in another hundred years, I can be proud of, even if no one would ever believe that I was a novelist in a previous life.

I look at the world with a renewed sense of wonder.  It’s one thing to look back at the technology of the past as a quaint relic, but to remember what it was like as a child in the Victorian era watching trains spewing smoke across the English landscape, or as a man in 1914 watching a then state-of-the-art Nieuport fighter doing low passes over the Copthorne Barracks, or seeing the first silent movies, it makes little things like watching traffic in the city, or flying out of town for the weekend, or watching more than a hundred years of cinema history from a personal computer seem miraculous.  I left this earth during an age of wonders and I have returned in an age of wonders, and I feel spoiled at times to have seen so many things across my lifetimes.

I take violence seriously and don’t make light of it.  I have a burden now, to make the right decisions when it comes to things like who I vote for, what products I buy, and what I do in the way of self-defense, because now I know I have to live down my decisions even if I die from them.

I’m ordinary enough that you might pass me on the streets of Portland, Oregon and never know me.  I don’t really stand out, I don’t have a big sign over my head that tells my life story.  I might even be your neighbor or the person behind you in line at VooDoo Donuts, or the one sitting quietly in the back corner at one of the clubs with a PBR on karaoke night.  But don’t be fooled if you know who I am and spend enough time with me; the life I lived a century ago is still with me, still a part of me, and still shaping how I live this life.

Remembering a past life changes you forever.  It is possible for life to go on, but it will never be the same; you can only choose to make the most of it, and I do.

We’re All Mad Here

I am just as shrill and irrational as the people I’m most afraid of. And chances are, so are all of you.

I realized this while discussing my paradoxical condition on the subject of firearms with a friend.  On the one hand I abhor violence and do not own nor wish to own a gun; on the other hand, a nagging part of me fears violence from opposing factions or people who take exception to certain facts about me as a person and believes that my voluntary disarmament is tantamount to passive suicide.

There’s nothing more difficult to come to grips with than realizing that we’re all lunatics in this asylum, but it’s very plain to me that the whole of Western Civilization really is insane. And if the whole of our civilization is insane, then I am not an observer to that fact, but a participant.

I see proof of this in my own paradoxes, my bad decisions in this life and in the previous one, deep contradictions on how I relate to others, the part of me that can’t escape the normalization of certain irrational and self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns that have become the hallmark of our age.

Of course, in this life I can blame social and economic stresses, but what about the life before?  Was it social and economic stress that made me march off to war when I was a year away from being too old for service?  I can’t say that external factors are entirely to blame for what I’ve done, except maybe for the overarching problems of our culture that have survived the last century.

If we are all lunatics, then, who will cure us? Or will we all remain in the asylum we built for ourselves until the next generation of lunatics, more shrill and irrational than we are, takes over?

At times like this I regret that what I’ve experienced of past life recollection gives no hint that there is any god or divine will, or any hope that there is some master plan for us to exceed ourselves (which we desperately need to do).  Even in the context of the soul being immortal, the aphorism “being aims at nothing and achieves nothing” resonates with an iron clang of truth.

An Empath?

I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t consider every possible explanation for what I’ve been experiencing.

Recently, someone suggested that I might be an empath and that I had picked up on these memories because I was susceptible to pathos.

If that’s the case, then the memories are not mine.  However, given the number of details that seem to match with the life of John Harris, I am convinced that even if they’re not mine, they are real memories.

Also, I do seem to fit a lot of the personality traits of an empath, and all that implies.  One of the worst of these is the fact that throughout my life, I’ve attracted a good number of people of the exact same very toxic personality type.  While I’m hesitant to use the term “psychic vampire,” that is the usual descriptor for such people.

In fact, it was dealing with one such person that my emotional defenses had worn so thin that I began having these memories in the first place.

I figure that the memories are either from elsewhere, and found a way in through the huge storm of negativity that was slowly destroying me, or they are from within, and were exposed after I lost the ability to repress them.

Either way, I think it says volumes about just how poor a state I was in last September, when the first memory of cowering in a dark dugout waiting for the shells to stop left me shaking and crying.  

I’m inclined to think this was more than just memories from a secondary source because it’s a less simple explanation.  As it stands, the thought that these were memories from a past life stretches the limits of simplicity and elegance.  I only consider that because I don’t know where I would have had any knowledge at all about Sherbourne Road in Yeovil, or Ferme Buterne Military Cemetery; cryptomnesia just doesn’t seem to fit.

Whatever the case, these memories have not been a pleasant thing for the most part.  They do hurt, because they are memories of an idyllic life and a long-lost period in history, gone forever in a violent upheaval.  I didn’t want to see the things I saw, but after a while it became impossible to block them out any more.