There’s another answer, too, though. Because if this is a possibility – if perhaps it is true that we have had many lives, and will have future lives – then we are all in a forgetting time, aren’t we?
We’ve forgotten. (The world does feel like this sometimes.)
There’s a Buddhist belief that we have been born and reborn so many times that every living person was at one time or another our own mother. I heard this idea years ago, and didn’t really think about it, but I didn’t forget it, either. And when I started writing this novel, it came back to me, and I started thinking more about it, and gradually the meaning began to seep into my consciousness. This idea that we are all truly connected in ways we can’t always see; that maybe this wasn’t just a nice statement to make us feel better, but actually the truth.
Everyone has been your mother. Think about that for a moment.
Or better yet, imagine it. Walk around and imagine that every single person – everyone you see – was once your mother, the person who cared for you at your most vulnerable, who kept you alive and (in many cases) put your well-being above her own.
The person who sells you a pack of gum, who collects your garbage, who runs your company, who lives on the street; the people you admire, the ones you find despicable, the ones who annoy you. The ones that look different from you and the ones that seem completely alien in other ways; how they think, how they act, what they eat. All of them cared for you from the time you were born, fed you from their bodies and comforted you, perhaps gave up their lives for you.
It’s something to think about. And it’s not just a thought experiment. It might be true. And what if it is? What does that mean for us? Would we do things differently? Would we treat others differently? Would we love them differently?
I think this is a question that people have to answer for themselves. I’m only a novelist, after all.
But it’s worth asking, isn’t it?