Thanks, Everyone/ Memory Fragment

Thanks so much for reading this blog!  I’m no lama and no historian, so take my musings on Buddhism, reincarnation, and the First World War with a grain of salt; at times these posts are sort of my way of thinking out loud.

Also, a brief memory brought on by this song a little bit ago: I remember a woman in a dress that was very plain, with small children at or near a dock.  I’m not sure where or when this was but I’ve got a strong feeling it has to do with the day we left England for France.  By the style of her clothes it could be a much older memory though.  I can’t remember if they were actually there as we boarded or if they were in the town watching us march to the docks.  Could have been someone’s wife and child there to say goodbye but I don’t think they were mine.

A Quote I Found Today

“If you want to know your past life, look at your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.”

-Padma Sambhava, 8th century teacher who introduced Buddhism to Tibet.

This quote is often circulated, but seldom given the correct attribution; most sources list it as a Chinese proverb (which it may also have become in more recent times).

It means a great deal to me as I start to open the book of my past lives.  Instead of finding past lives from my present condition, I’m learning about my present condition from past lives.  I am still impatient, impulsive, too willing to create my own (bad) explanations for things and prone to get so lost in those explanations that I lose sight of just how much truth I can really digest in one go.

I went from a soldier in 1915 to a life in the 20th century seeking truth, but chasing after shadows; that arc has continued in this life.  I spent most of the 20th century as a truth seeker.  But I’ve been blinded by desire to know the truth when I lacked wisdom to do anything with it.  I was like a gorilla with a bookshelf full of Proust.

If you desire truth, you’ll find it, but you won’t know what to do with it.  I desired truth and I got plenty of it; several lifetimes worth of shards that I’ve been trying to put together in all the wrong ways, in fact.

Now what shall I do, except to either teach a gorilla to read Proust, or to discard the truth and begin anew with no presumptions?  The joke was on me and only now, so many decades later, I get it.

In my next life, I’ll either be a very wise person, or a very well-read gorilla.

Listen to this

It’s an excerpt from an e-book that details the more obscure battles of the First World War.

In this one, they’re talking about the Second Battle of Ypres.

It confirms my memories:

1. of the relative condition of the town (I described it as looking something like Port Au Prince when we arrived).

2. Of having been actually within the walls of the town during the battle (something I had begun to doubt).

3. Of a few of the men trying to make jokes, but for the most part we were in no mood for it.

Also, interesting, the fellow they interview is from Somerset!

98 Years Ago Today…

The 80th Brigade (27th div.) was among the brigades involved in the horrendous Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge.  This was one of the battles that shrunk the salient to its smallest size of the war; it was not a good moment for the allies.

I have no new memories of this battle; only memories I have already mentioned here.  The more detailed memories remain elusive, even now, and I wonder if I ever can… or should… bring them back.  So far my most lengthy and detailed memory was of my rifle developing a sticky bolt while I was laying in a shallow muddy hole, perhaps a forward sap point.  I had to use a small hammer to knock it loose so I think it had been doing this for a while, but in our haste that was all they could give me to fix the problem.  That memory, I’m fairly sure, dates from the day of the battle itself whereas I’m unsure about all the others.

I’m relieved I haven’t remembered anything more today.  I’ve actually had a fairly pleasant day and I’m glad to not be in angsty tears over an anniversary for once.  It’s not to say I don’t still feel sadness, but I feel like I’ve started to put distance between myself and what happened all those years ago.

98 Years Ago Today…

…or thereabouts (I don’t know when they deployed us), I marched down the roads of France and Belgium toward Ypres… probably through horse shit.

It seems counter-intuitive that there’d be artillery in front of us, but I’ll have to see if I can research how a column of troops in WWI moved.  I distinctly remembered there being beaucoup de maird de cheval. 

I should talk military stuff with my roommate more.  He was in the army (for a short while at least) and he’s into the metaphysical in a big way.  I always seem to have my most vivid memories when talking to him.  In fact that’s how today’s memory came through.

I’m thankful that I have the support of my roommate and of my father (a 22 year Air Force veteran, now retired) who have both listened and lent words of support when the emotions from my memories got too intense.  I would be in a bad place without them and I feel like we’ve connected on a level I never imagined.  I still hate war and I hate killing, but so do they.  I really feel like they’ve got my back when it gets rough and they always know just what to say.

Anniversaries looming

Friday and Saturday will be the 98th anniversary of the only major action I would have taken part in during my life as John, the Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge.

I feel fine right now, and I’m trying to keep my mood up, but don’t be surprised if my moods take a nose dive by the end of the week.

I’m home sick with a possible kidney stone to pass today; that may be helping me take my mind off things at least.

Another Thing

I think there may be some connection between this whole past life experience and my gender dysphoria; just what, I don’t know.

Here are the facts:

First, I find that my past life memories are almost invariably of the lives of men who were fairly unhappy. 

Second, I find that I usually have waves of dysphoria at roughly the same times of year, namely late May, early July, and September.  I think the first wave was in late may or possibly July 2010 and it was mild, but came back with a vengeance in september that same year.  These months correspond well to the Second Battle of Ypres, the death of John Harris, and the approximate date of his enlistment.  This pattern developed before I had any memory of a past life or had any knowledge of the life and death of John Harris.

I could exhaustively try to interpret these facts here, but I’m too tired.  I just wanted to get them down for personal reference.  

For my part, to me it feels like the seismic shifts in mood and self-image that come with gender dysphoria may very well have turned up these memories without any sort of neurosis involved.  I see it as being like a plow on the fields outside of Ypres, gouging through the soil and pulling up guns, bayonets, bits of uniforms, and now and then the skeleton of yet another unknown soldier.

This is really getting deep at the heart of everything I am. 


Is the Joke On Me?

Sorry for my absence the last few days.

Long story short, I’m examining what may be memories from another life… or perhaps yet another dead end.  Either way, it’s a life I do not wish to publicly discuss and although there are hints that it may be related to my life as John, it’s a piece of the puzzle I’d rather keep to myself.

The people around me keep thinking I’ve finally lost my mind, until I actually sit down and talk to them.  I think only my therapist (the only professional among them) has not wavered in the thought that I’m not insane; at least, she has never described me as delusional.

I certainly don’t hold onto beliefs that are patently, demonstrably false.  If anything I go to great lengths to weigh them for veracity.  But I am fully and even painfully aware that the bizarre nature of these thoughts I’ve had is well outside the realm of any sort of psychosocial norm, and the energy I devote to investigating them borders on the obsessive.  I have considered the possibility that I might be schizotypal as I have weird ideas that never develop into full-blown delusions, but the fact that I still have something of a social life seems out of line with that diagnosis.

Of course, the one reasonable alternative is that this isn’t all in my head, and if I really was who I thought I was between this life and my life as John… Hoo boy… it makes me sweat thinking about that.

But maybe there’s a third option?  Is it any crazier to say that maybe these ideas are external to me than to say that in a past life I was a Tommy at Second Ypres?  I suppose the problem with that idea is not only the “how” but the “how would I know?”  With the prospect of reincarnation, the “how?” isn’t solved but the “how would I know?” is intuitive: the simplest, most elegant explanation for having verifiable memories from a different period of history that do not fit the pattern of psychotic thinking is that they are, in fact, my own memories. *

Still, the idea of memories falsely implanted into the minds of others isn’t a new one, and it certainly isn’t one I created whole-cloth.  If anything, thought insertion is a common trope in psychotic delusions, usually with the implication that an enemy or sinister secret organization was behind the insertion.  By extension it’s also a cornerstone of contemporary conspiracy theories.  But of course, the idea of thought insertion by a shadowy government organization is so universally creepy and unpleasant that it has also become a cornerstone of 20th and 21st century speculative fiction.

This does not mean that thought insertion is real; no more than it means that cloning dinosaurs, revenge by Voodoo  or time travel is real.  It simply stands as an idea that human beings find simultaneously fascinating and revolting but has no basis in reality.

Still, that part of me that nags to ask every possible question when cross-examining apparent past life memories begs to know: what if the joke really is on me?

Perhaps I’ll never know if these memories are external, inasmuch as nobody can ever be entirely and inerrantly sure that their memories are entirely true and entirely their own. Philosophers have long since proved that we can never be truly sure of this, after all.

But if the joke really is on me, they did a damned good job of it, and I think I’d be more curious than angry if I found out.

*Were there nothing verifiable about the memories, the simplest explanation would be a very childlike imagination.


Part of what has convinced me that I have had past lives is the fact that I’ve been able to identify a certain consistent character across several potential past lives.  Certain facts or actions of certain people I may have been seem to mesh just a little too neatly with who I am now, and it’s giving me a very clear- if deeply critical-view of my own soul.

First of all, I have a big heart and try to reach out to people, and yet paradoxically, I’ve been known to throw loved ones “under the bus” when I was determined to do something.  I’m fairly sure I had bad relationships in every life I can remember and in this one, I almost made the same mistakes in this life.

Second, I have a tendency to become blindly ambitious when I’m fixed on things (see my first point).  I will set my mind on doing something and nothing or nobody will stop me.  Trouble is, I don’t always make the best decisions when I do that.  When I do make good decisions, they’re usually the sort that save my ass rather than coming with a lot of rewards.

I tend to stick my neck out for a cause.  The one exception would be my possible life in the Middle Ages where I may have taken the safe bet and became a monk (but it’s likely that by that point I was already trained as a soldier and knew what I’d be facing if I went to war).  In 1914, I went to war to prove I cared about England, and I may have been (among other things) a left-wing activist in the McCarthy Era before this life.  I’ve definitely been an activist for social justice and radical ideas in this life.  In nearly every case, I found that my tendency to care enough to take a risk brought regrets because I was not willing to accept the consequences of the stands I took.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that I’m someone who cares a great deal about things, but seldom has the maturity and skills to see things through.  I feel like the captain that steers a ship toward an iceberg when egged on to prove it’s unsinkable, then cries about going down with the ship.*  I’m starting to really dislike how I’ve lived my lives and I’m left wondering how I could spend what’s left of this one without making the same mistakes over and over endlessly.

I’ve met some people who did things in their past lives that people consider bad… very bad.  And yet, they’ve clearly matured past the point of making the same mistakes.  They still have a lot of the same character traits, but they’ve learned to live with them and how to make the best of them.

So when is the day that I can say “I’ve learned my lesson” with confidence?  Do I need to make a mistake so bad that I couldn’t possibly ever be stupid enough to make it again?  Or will it come to me as I learn who I am and what defines me?

*Titanic references aside, I was probably safe in Hereford reading about that disaster in the news in 1912 and not on the ship.