I have always been reluctant to fully accept that I might’ve been Phil. Those who read this blog regularly know I can get carried away with the possibilities but I know for a fact I can never prove such a claim. More than that, I don’t think it’s healthy to dwell on it as much as I have.
Now and then I like to take the reasons for my suspicions and just run through them, as much for my own purpose as for the sake of keeping new readers up to date.
Here’s what I have.
I have maybe a minute or two of memories that feel solid or have been confirmed though I haven’t yet compiled them as they’re scattered through this blog’s archives. The memories are strongest from about 1959 to 1972 but the earliest memories that feel solid are from about 1935 and the latest from about 1978. The memories seem to be very domestic in nature for the most part, and are unglamorous glimpses of a life riddled with uncertainty and bad luck. Of highlights like meeting Ridley Scott or winning a Hugo, I have nothing; it’s all day-to-day life.
Interrelatedness With Other Lives
Interrelatedness is hinted at but never solid enough to completely seize on. From strongest to weakest I have the following:
The most remarkable fact is that Phil was not only the son of a WWI veteran, but had flashes of the war during his experiences in 1974. This was mentioned in several letters; however, he did not attribute this to past lives.
In the late 1940s, he had to drop out of college because he could not pass the then-mandatory ROTC classes. When asked to put a rifle back together, he could not bring himself to do it properly and seems to have compulsively disabled his weapon much like a soldier suffering shell shock might have done.
Phil lived in Point Reyes Station, very near cliffs where I recall being shipwrecked about 100 years earlier. I had this memory before I had seen photos of the Point Reyes National Seashore.
He was a fan of the work of Chretien de Troyes, a writer that Count Willliam would doubtless have been familiar with and might have even known.
I am of a similar height, build, eye, and hair color. I am slightly shorter, my hair has more blonde highlights than the few color photos I’ve seen of Phil before his hair went gray, and I’m a good bit heavier. It is worth noting that my father looks just a little bit like Phil’s father and my mother looks a great deal like Phil’s mother, but both of them were born while Phil’s parents were both still alive so I can rule out the possibility of a group reincarnation off the bat.
All of the following is generally true for both myself and for Phil: On the one hand, an intellectual high. Get me talking about literature, music, philosophy, or history and I’ll keep you engaged for hours; on the other hand, a deeply unstable personality, volatile emotions, severe anxiety, prone to depression and suicidal thoughts. Very much a raconteur/raconteuse. No stranger to mystical thinking but very philosophical about it. Gnostic. Politically progressive but not actively involved in politics due to a general distaste for confrontation. Fond of cats. Difficult childhood due to emotional problems. Creative and often disappointed by lack of progress in creative endeavors. High verbal IQ. Tried to emigrate to another country but failed.
In all, even my own father had to admit that personality-wise, we were “more than halfway similar.”
Interests And Abilities
Anne Dick once quipped that Phil could have been an actor; I actually went to a high school for the performing arts and studied theatre and was not too bad at it (I landed decent roles) but I fell out of love with it around the time I began to write more than occasionally.
As far as writing goes, I feel my fiction is slowly working up to Phil’s level of brilliance but I believe my style and prose are more polished. My typical novel is about the same length as one of Phil’s, and I find that when I adopt similar themes and ideas I can do it pretty skillfully and without seeming forced or derivative. The biggest difference in my writing is that I write with a very British voice born of the year and a half I spent trying to assimilate into British culture in the early 2000s (and perhaps born out of earlier lives in the UK). Also, my protagonists are often skilled professionals and only seldom as poor or neurotic as I am.
I’m going to graduate soon, but if I’d been required to take mandatory ROTC like Phil was the result probably would have been similar. I certainly had a hard enough time getting through my classes, not because of lack of intellect but because of lack of discipline and a restlessness that made it a challenge to slog through the parts I didn’t like (my BA took 12 years to complete because of my restlessness).
I enjoy a similar selection of music but my tastes are not identical. I’ve got no interest in OC punk from the 70s and I’m more into prog rock than Phil was. In all though I’ve seldom heard anything he liked that I didn’t either enjoy discovering (like Dowland) or already have in my music collection (like Purcell).
I’m less well-read. That is a notable difference. I simply don’t know if I would have the attention span to read Proust.
Into Gnostic philosophy and intrigued by medieval scholasticism. That’s a notable similarity.
It is still unlikely I was him statistically speaking. Also, I would like to believe that someone like Phil could find his way out of the cycle and choose not to be reborn; being him would pose some serious questions about why I’m back here. It is possible that everything I’ve listed is within the realm of coincidence.
What I feel more confident saying is that we’re cut from the same cloth. I’m not exactly like him but that’s a good thing. It means I have an identity apart from him and I don’t have to be tied to him beyond a certain fascination.