This is the Word of the Day for today and while the word itself is new to me, the concept is not. It appears in philosophical texts, religious texts (often in Hindu and occasionally Catholicism) and medicine. There are countless allusions in art as well, with the relationship between time and memory (Hello, Dali) and the link between our spirit selves and bodies.
My relationship with this concept, as with many others, circles around skeptical and agnostic, but there is absolutely no great reason to dismiss it altogether. With so much that we don’t know, why should we pretend to know everything that there isn’t.
My experience with the idea of past lives are merely the claims of people who believe they have experienced this Anamnesis. It both amuses and irks me that so many of them believe that they were earthly or space royalty in some ancient existence. You will rarely read of anyone who claims to have been a Neanderthal, or even a Cro-Magnon. It’s usually some manifestation of a better lot than they’ve drawn in their current incarnation.
It seems the mirror image to me of those unhappy with their lives for whatever reason who dream of, or profess a belief in a godly afterlife. It’s another way to find some solace to the unanswerable question:
Is this really all there is?
You can look forward or you can look backward but the reward in everyone’s search usually turns out to be something that was better than here. I get that. Life can often seem a monumental disappointment, or even a really bad prank. Who doesn’t experience that feeling? Who doesn’t wake up some days to the feeling that not only does all of this really suck but it’s entirely pointless? So there has to be some answer, right? There has to be some justification for the hardship and heartache, no?
Well, let me know if you find an answer with demonstrable proof. I’m willing to listen, despite that it’s not all that important to me to live forever, or in the case of anamnesis, to have always existed. Things could be better now, but I’m not sure going back in time, were it possible, would make it better. How cruel a joke would it be if you could randomly select a time to go back to, to revisit a previous existence, and it turns out you were a tubercular six year old breathing its last breaths in a filthy hovel with a starving family milling about mumbling about a god’s punishment and a failed crop? I’m not being an ass about it. I’m just being realistic. If such a thing as a previous life exists, it’s not necessarily a good one. Or what if it’s exactly the same as you have now? Maybe you’ve long since reached peak you-ness and everything before and after is just going to be tedium and/or disappointment?
I’m sorry, but that tickles me.
Stick with what you know. Make the best of it.