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Past Lives?

Local theater currently offers a rarely produced play by Christopher Marlowe (Edward II) at Diversionary, and a play about Don Miguel de Cervantes (Man of La Mancha) at the Welk. Along with receiving capable productions these otherwise very different writers may have something else in common.

Do souls transmigrate? Do they move from one body to the next at, or after, death? Or is this kind of talk just giddy poo-bah?

Yes? Then consider.

Michaelangelo Buonarroti, the great Italian artist, died in 1564. Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were born that same year, as was Galileo Galilei, the earth-shaking astronomer/physicist.

Did Michaelangelo's soul fork into the three of them?

(Okay, Michaelangelo died February 18, and Galileo was born three days earlier, but still: think of the propinquity!).

But here's a reverse-kicker: did a soul-flow cease in 1616?

Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547. He wrote most of Don Quixote, Part I in a cheap apartment he shared with his wife, family, and relatives on Calle del Rastro in a poor section of Valladolid, Spain (the rooms were so cramped and noisy, writes Hershcel Brickell, "all young writers who complain of not being able to work except under ideal conditions should visit" them).

Cervantes died April 23, 1616.

So did William Shakespeare.

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Local theater currently offers a rarely produced play by Christopher Marlowe (Edward II) at Diversionary, and a play about Don Miguel de Cervantes (Man of La Mancha) at the Welk. Along with receiving capable productions these otherwise very different writers may have something else in common.

Do souls transmigrate? Do they move from one body to the next at, or after, death? Or is this kind of talk just giddy poo-bah?

Yes? Then consider.

Michaelangelo Buonarroti, the great Italian artist, died in 1564. Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were born that same year, as was Galileo Galilei, the earth-shaking astronomer/physicist.

Did Michaelangelo's soul fork into the three of them?

(Okay, Michaelangelo died February 18, and Galileo was born three days earlier, but still: think of the propinquity!).

But here's a reverse-kicker: did a soul-flow cease in 1616?

Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547. He wrote most of Don Quixote, Part I in a cheap apartment he shared with his wife, family, and relatives on Calle del Rastro in a poor section of Valladolid, Spain (the rooms were so cramped and noisy, writes Hershcel Brickell, "all young writers who complain of not being able to work except under ideal conditions should visit" them).

Cervantes died April 23, 1616.

So did William Shakespeare.

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Comments
2

I don't believe in past lives personally, but here's another weird one: James Merrill as some readers may know is a world-renowned poet who also happens to be from the Merrill of Merrill-Lynch family, and so supremely sensitive he can't stand to watch the news or keep up with current events. In the 1960s he and his partner were playing with a Ouija board when they made contact (or so they believe anyway, I remain agnostic) with a rather chatty spirit named Ephraim who claimed to have once lived in Phoenicia as a local literati.

Ephraim told them all kinds of stories over a long period of time, some of which are collected in Merrill's poetry collection "The Book of Ephraim". In one section, they get to discussing great composers. Ephraim tells them that although most humans have to reincarnate over and over before they can ascend to higher levels, composers generally make it in one lifetime, except for Mozart. Mozart, apparently, keeps coming back to make music on Earth because he loves it so much. This was 1968. So they ask Ephraim who Mozart is now, and EPHRAIM says (remember Merrill's ignorance of pop culture) "A BLACK ROCK STAR, WHATEVER THAT IS". Now, it could be Otis Redding, but another famous musician wrote these words at the time: "I'm looking through my belly button window/ All I see are a whole lot of frowns / I'm looking through my belly button window / things will be different next time around." Admittedly this was in the persona of a baby about to be aborted, but consider the life of the author, the great musical genius Jimi Hendrix, so short, so wild, like Mozart's. Strangely too, a few years later a prodigy opera composer appeared on the scene, who wrote an opera about the prison break in France in which prisoners escaped by way of helicopters, but in the opera, the helicopter pilots were portrayed as Buddhist Bodhisattvas -- enlightened beings who keep returning for love of humanity and all sentient beings.

OK, weird enough, right? So one day listening to straight ahead jazz it occurred to me to check the death date of that other great improvisational electric guitar player, the one who invented the medium, Charlie Christian, who also died very young. Guess what. He died the same year Jimi Hendrix was born.

Still don't believe it though, of course. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not just amazing guitar work and operas.

Sept. 25, 2011

Wial. I'm not enamored of past lives myself: a.) the fun ones are already taken; b.) it's much more likely that, instead of being Mozart or Sophocles (who allegedly lived a perfect life), you're Roman galley slave XIV, chained to your oar, and the drummer just cranked up to "ramming speed." But there's this. Chapter one of John F. Avedon's In Exile from the Land of Snows describes the search for the 14th Dalai Lama, who was the reincarnation of #13. Makes for raised-eyebrow reading.

Sept. 27, 2011

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