One Unsettled Question

One question that remains unsettled about my possible identification as Philip K. Dick in my most recent past life is a simple but fundamental one: Where was Dick’s Englishness?

I’m as English as Blackpool Rock, marked “Made in England” through and through.  I get asked all the time if I’m British because I have an RP cadence to my inflection.  Those who have read my books are even more surprised when they see me at conventions in America as I write with a distinctly British voice that Phil didn’t have.  While I was living in the UK, I experimented briefly with dropping my American accent around the locals and I was able to fit in perfectly; I had planned, for a while, to lose my American accent entirely and settle in England before a lack of money and a chance for love brought me back to the States.  Truth be told, I’ve been a devoted Anglophile since childhood; I seem to have a much stronger emotional impression of England as a “home,” and my memories of my last life in England are actually clearer and more complete than my memories of Phil’s life.

Phil, on the other hand, seems to have been a much stronger Francophile than an Anglophile.  Granted, I am in the odd position of being quite fond of France myself, and in my English lives I often spent significant amounts of time in France, but his admiration of the French seemed more of a literary obsession than one driven  by past lives.

I have several theories on why I have this essential and anomalous Englishness after having had an earlier past life in the US.

The first and most obvious theory is that I’m wrong about having been Phil.  In fact, my initial impression was that I had lived multiple lives in England in the 20th century with one life as an adult in the 1960s, though no specific memories came up.  Phil’s memories were a bit of a wild card that I hadn’t been expecting, since I first turned to his works and bio as a pattern for what to do with my own experiences.

The second theory is a simple matter of activation.  Perhaps Phil never had an experience that activated that Englishness in him.  The problem is, I find it difficult to nail down any such experience in my current life, since I was an anglophile from a very young age but never actually visited the UK until 2001.  It is possible that one of the numerous films and TV shows set or produced in the UK I watched as a child may have been the trigger, but which one?  There were so many!  What I do know is that by 2005 after living in the UK for a year and a half (with a hiatus of a few months in 2004), clear and present past life memories were lurking just below the surface, influencing my decisions and tearing at my heart strings in profound ways.  However, the exact point it rose to that level is still a mystery to me.

The third theory is perhaps the most unusual and the most problematic: that this progression is evidence of non-linear time.  If I were to go by how clearly I remember things, I would rate John’s life as the most recent, followed by Phil’s, followed by Count William, followed by all the others.  But does that mean that they were out of sequence or, indeed, that these are really past lives per se?  Could some or all of them be future lives?  And if I’m Philip K. Dick’s past life, strange as it might sound, is his destiny fixed or can I choose to live his life differently if I find myself born as him?

I’m rather partial to the second theory right now.  The first theory has some problems in that it doesn’t fully account for confirmed memories and an astonishing number of preferences, beliefs, and character traits that have carried over from Phil, and the third theory is harder to falsify than the first two because I can’t know if I’m destined to be reborn in Chicago in 1928 until I actually arrive there.

I suppose this Englishness is a good thing in that it has distinguished my current life’s writing from Phil’s.  For me to sincerely “copy” his style I have to drop all of the literary idiosyncrasies of a British author and it comes off forced and contrived, so I don’t do it.  I let it roll and embrace it as a part of my unique style.  Still, it does seem strange and I wish I understood it better, since it seems to be one of the most prominent features of my being.

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An Uncomfortable Thought

I have to say, I feel a lot better since making my last post.  Even if I didn’t say who I think I might have been, I sort of put my message in a bottle so to speak and got it off my chest.

Now I can talk about some issues that I have considered, which only make sense in light of my previous life and lead me to some disturbing questions about the nature of time.

Compare William Longespee’s life with John Harris’ life.  They are similar in weird ways.  Similar, but not the same.  Karmic opposites, almost, and occurring at very analogous times in history.

Longespee lived at a time when the Middle Ages had reached their peak, when Wales had been tamed, the Barons’ Revolt had been settled, and England was a solid territory.  There was a great flourishing of literature, knowledge, and mechanical genius in his era too.  He fought in Flanders and was captured in Bouvines, France.  Then after his death, about 125 years later, it all came tumbling down with a disaster.

John lived at a time when the Modern era had reached its peak, when the British Empire had reached its zenith, and rational positivism seemed to be the pinnacle of thought and achievement.  He fought in Flanders and was killed in Houplines, France, only a short drive from Bouvines.  But his death came at a time when the Modern era showed its dark side: the cold, logical application of science and technology to warfare, and the Modern Era is on its way out.

Now consider my previous life and my current one.  Once again a writer, once again living under an increasingly intrusive military-industrial police state where the imaginations of the paranoid are matched or exceeded by the machinations of the powerful.  Once again, reckoning with a feeling of being surrounded by the past, perhaps even immersed in it.  Once again writing, struggling, barely making ends meet out on the West Coast.  Damn me… I might be tempted to think, if I were less resistant to such ideas, that this was not a past life but that my current life is an illusion.

I often wonder if this idea of past lives isn’t just a silly pretext to validate our ideas of linear time.  On the other hand, if it is just a pretext, then this is really 1974 and 1974 was really the First Century…  and I really don’t want to think about that because it makes my head hurt.

Except there’s the sailor, Clyde or Clive or whatever my name was in that life.  That one seems to support the more linear notion of past lives, as does the unassuming vixen who lived in the hills above Takasaki, Japan.  And if these lives are more than just phantoms, they don’t fit with the seeming tendency of lives to cluster or pair into similarities.  At least, not yet.  Maybe I’ll discover lives that harmonize with those in weird ways too.

Perhaps the similarities between lives have more to do with my tendencies, my karmic baggage if you will.  That’s something described frequently among those who have looked into reincarnation.  The Buddhist explanation, so far as I can tell, is that our sense of self is precisely the sum total of those tendencies and attachments which kind of makes sense; it might explain why John unconsciously wanted to fight in Flanders like Longespee, and I spent a year and a half roaming England looking for John’s home.  You could easily argue we were actively looking to repeat our past lives, but unaware of our motives.

In all, the life I may have lived previously has some disturbing implications.  Granted, my memories are of a very ordinary life as a very anxious man. I have no memory of the unusual experiences I reported back then, but the thoughts I wrote down about those experiences come wafting back at me, nagging at me, daring me to ask if my current presumptions are correct.

By the way, check this out.  The building I take some of my art history classes in was built in 1915 (the year John died), and cut into the stonework is this motif.  If you’ve figured out who I might have been in my previous life, you just might shit yourself:

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Probably a coincidence.  Probably…