Not So Sure

I tried to walk away from believing anything I have said previuosly about reincarnation. I had been nearly ready to convince myself that there was nothing to gnosticism either, that it was an aberration, a wild antique heresy.

But the first thing to go was the sense of normalcy, to be honest. There are certain topics I still avoid in conversation, certain music or videos I avoid watching with my partners. There are still moments I have to stave off a freakout over bad memories by hugging my cat and I play it all normal for my partners but I’m actually terrified.

I tried to brush it away with theology but that raised far more questions. The Judeo-Christian theology on the afterlife is much more complex than I could have ever imagined (in some Jewish texts, for example, souls still get their Shabbat even in Gehenna). The verse in Luke about the great divide fixed in place between the righteous and wicked is interesting, and supports the orthodox notion that Jesus spoke of an immovable obstacle that had been placed between the damned and the redeemed. But wasn’t that the point, in orthodox theology, of the crucifixion, to bridge that divide and redeem everyone? And what was the default belief at the time of Christ, versus the belief at the dawn of Rabbinical Judaism or the days when the First Temple was just a tent in the Judean desert? Whither the change? I can’t ignore the notion, shared with certain Eastern religions, that reincarnating in this realm is some form of lesser punishment. But did I not declare the name of Christ? Maybe that’s what Matthew 7:21 is all about. I had not known Christ before. My last life’s “baroque” theology was a dead end. My theology of late has been turning in a Rabbinical direction though I am not yet planning to convert to Judaism. Time will tell.

I guess what I’m getting at with my semi-organized ramblings here is that my experiences have shaped me in ways I can’t fathom. I don’t talk about the war much any more these days (starting to understand why the lads who made it home never did) but it’s still background radiation in my life and it’s changed the landscape.

Well…

…once again, I may have spoken too soon.

I have to say the flashes of the Western Front aren’t as intense or frequent any more. They’re not as frightening or vivid, and nothing new has come since a dream I had in September 2016. But an innocent YouTube video where a guy gets splattered by bits of tomato testing cheap weapons from Amazon dragged some of that imagery out. Specifically, a very unpleasant image of slogging across no man’s land, artillery going off on all sides, looking down at the sleeve of my tunic and seeing tiny flecks of someone’s viscera. Someone I probably knew. That’s a detail you don’t much see in war movies but small bits of intestine and the like did tend to get on you.

Writing this down so I can get that image out of my head. I’d written about this before so it’s not a new image to long-time readers but I’m not keen on that entering my head again.

Still trying to divorce myself from the idea that these images are from a life I personally lived. I can’t deal with that any more. I want to believe this is all some very elaborate self-deception, the artifact of a brilliant imagination on overdrive. But I’ll dutifully record every episode so I can get to the bottom of what my real problem is because I haven’t found a single doctor or counselor who could figure it out.

Clarifying

Regarding my previous post:

First of all, the feeling that what I remember of Jack’s life (or of any other) was real has faded over time and I can’t relate to how I felt before.

Second, the idea of reincarnation sounds kind of absurd to me now and I wonder how many years I wasted on it.

Third, I’m drifting away from the gnostic beliefs I once had. In fact I’m waffling on whether or not I’m better off agnostic. If not for the fact that I do see some value in Christianity I probably would have declared myself agnostic a while ago.

I really thought I had myself sorted but I  don’t. I made myself miserable thinking I was the reincarnated spirit of a dead WWI soldier and I feel great relief that any sense of it being real to me is evaporating. I think writing about all this in my latest novel has helped but I’m already moving away from the mystical in my writing.

The last piece I finished was a 5000 word medieval dick joke involving a relic thief and it was so much more fun than writing about characters tormented by past lives. In fact my vivid medieval characters and settings have been among the few silver linings from all this.

I guess I’ll still post anything relevant here but that’s not going to be often. I thought I could never go back the way I came but maybe I can, and I’m okay with that. This rabbit hole is bottomless.

Well Damn

I used to buy my books at a shop called W. A. Houben when I was a student at Richmond the American International University in London in 2003-05. It was our unofficial campus bookstore. I also bought a gorgeous 1906 edition of Don Quixote there.

This place was right down a pedestrial alleyway very near a war memorial by the medieval St. Mary Magdalene Church in Richmond, probably the first war memorial in the UK I’d really paid attention to. It had a Gothic shape much like the memorial in St. Peter’s Square in Hereford, where Jack lived.

If my memories of Jack’s life are the suggestions of a wild imagination (I never ruled that out), I have no doubt that the seeds of it were planted there; on the other hand, if Jack’s memories were real, then I have no doubt the area over by the bookstore was the start of a long, slow-burning chain reaction that led to my anamnesis. Either way, I’m absolutely certain my first trip to W. A. Houben around September 2003 precipitated the first episode involving Jack’s memories in 2012. I was dogged thereafter by that familiar sense of gnawing, fleeting familiarity, of things just on the edge of recollection, of buildings, signs, and items in antique shops raising the hair on the back of my neck a little. Within a year and a half I was searching for a village from the back of my mind; within 6 years I was ready to admit I felt very strongly that I’d lived around the turn of the 20th century. Within 9 years my memories had a name, rank, and serial.

I’m sad to say the bookstore that figured into all this is gone now. That bookstore and the quiet little nook in Richmond it was tucked into had a very special place in my memory, and now that corner of the world is just a little poorer for it. I wonder what other places I’ve loved are going to shutter?

https://franciswright.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/w-a-houben-houbens-bookshop-a-richmond-institution/

“They Shall Not Grow Old” review

On the 27th I saw “They Shall Not Grow Old” at the Century theater at Clackamas Town Center. I was the brunette who arrived late without 3D glasses and had to dash out and get a pair out of one of the return bins.

First, let me get this out of the way: the technology used by Peter Jackson worked. Sometimes. Truth be told the clips from the trailers were probably the best of it. Much of it still had awkward in-betweens and dodgy coloring. Also, much was made about the film being shown at the “correct” speed but I saw several instances of the footage being slowed to stretch the time.

I should also say that this film would have been better presented in 2D. In the trailer everything looked crisp and sharp but the 3D conversion made things fuzzy and blurry. I didn’t like it at all.

Not all of the technical problems with this film could be prevented; the lack of footage from early in the war was especially noticeable for me (Jack Harris died in 1915, but most of the footage was from 1916 on) but as I understand cameras were banned in the early years and even stills from before 1916 are rare, let alone moving pictures.

There was also a lack of actual combat footage to contend with. I get Jackson’s reasoning for cutting in artwork from “The War Illustrated” but the overall effect of these low-res images on the big screen was underwhelming to say the least.

But for its limited scope (British ground troops on the Western Front) it was at least accurate. I found nothing surprising (no new discoveries or confirmations) but it represented this particular theatre of war faithfully.

Overall I give it a 7/10, but this score is largely because of the obvious effort put into the production.

For my personal experience (ie things not considered in my criticism of the film per se), it didn’t really bring back anything for a few reasons. First, for practical reasons they couldn’t make the artillery sounds loud enough to feel in your bones or give them that distinctive echo they get around built-up areas. Second, there’s the fact that people don’t act naturally when they know they’re on camera (how many Tommies saying “Smile boys! We’re in the pictures!” can you fit in one film?). This is as true today as it was a century ago.

That said, there was a brief moment that got my pulse going. It was when colorized stills of night shots involving star flares and barbed wire were cut in very briefly. That bit was close to home. But it was little more than a drumbeat.

Overall the film didn’t have the cathartic effect I had hoped for. I found the ending of “Oh! What A Lovely War!” had more impact on me (I am not the only WWI British past life claimant who loves that movie for its poetic honesty). But I can’t be too harsh about “They Shall Not Grow Old” because it at least told the story in a way it hadn’t before and it’s worth listing among the more notable WWI films for its technical effort.

Also, A Present-Life Update

It seems the novel I wrote very loosely based on my experience of recalling past lives in medieval England and WWI has finally gotten some interest from one of the queries. I’m still stuck writing in my confined niche of subgenre fiction though. I’m debating whether to try to get out of my subgenre or just damn the torpedoes and promote it to a wider audience with some explanation about this obscure subgenre I write in. A good book is a good book no matter what the core audience, right?

Still keeping my word not to promote my work using my claims. As far as the publisher I’m speaking to and most of my reader base knows, it’s just a clever work of fiction. I won’t use any claims to the contrary to advance my career. I remain committed to the premise that if I was who I say I was from 1928 to 1982, I can make it on my own talent without making some extraordinary claim about my prior identities.