Second thoughts on reincarnation: Sure you want to return?

My friend Steve told me about a public service ad he saw showing a man stuffing a musket with whatever you stuff a musket.  The caption read “Guns change, laws should change, too.”

A simple message, but true.  When something changes, there are adjustments to be made.

From the discussion that has been carried in the letters page this week, I started thinking about how religions have changed.

Before the advent of the three monotheistic religions, most of the people of the world followed nature-based religions with many gods connected with aspects of nature.  The belief was that humans were part of nature and should take care of it and everything in it.  The world seemed enough for them, because there was no Heaven or Hell, but rather reincarnation so they could come back to their home in one form or another.

The Greeks, also pagans, created the idea of a Heaven in the form of the Elysian Fields, a blissful place where virtuous people went when they died.  The concept of virtue changed from simply caring for your planet to being brave and devotional.  With monotheism, things changed even more. Religions became even less democratic. Wars over religion began.  Today personal salvation is strived for and is based upon belief and acceptance of a particular God or His prophet. (And God became capitalized).

But things change on mundane levels as well.  I became uncomfortably aware of this when I decided to stop downtown on my way home from visiting my dentist.  I was at the Avenida 3 stop for the Sabana Cementerio bus when I realized the Glass Café was just across the street.  (It is actually called Union Café, I believe).

I decided to have a light lunch there.

So I turned my attention to people watching, which is what sidewalk cafes are for.  There was a nice parade of strollers in the spacious promenade between the café and the post office.  In front of the café a very large tree that looked like Siamese twins at the trunk provided shade for the people sitting and chatting on the bench that surrounded it. (Trees deserve to have their gods)  I noticed that there seemed to be very few overweight or obese people walking, but soon I tired of the parade, and I pulled the Kindle that was tempting me, out of my purse.

When I left just before one o’clock, the café had filled; most of the people were texting on their cell phones and at one table, there was a PC, which was the center of interest of the four men.  Were sidewalk cafes and people watching becoming obsolete, I wondered?  Maybe future cafes will have tables in little telephone booths so that diners can talk on their cell phones and not just text while they eat.

I returned to the bus stop where the line was now half a block long and would cover the length of the block before a bus arrived some 20 minutes later. The street seemed more crowded than I ever recalled ,and all of the people, unlike the strollers, looked harassed and isolated. Two buses filled up before I managed to board a third.  .

How far we have come from communal feasts and telling stories around the fire and living and working within walking distance of our homes.  And we have created a world that lots of people don’t want to return to.

After thinking about today’s world, I don’t wonder why there is a need for a Heaven for some modern day people. I do wonder what they will do when they get there — one thing is sure: Stop having religious wars.  Otherwise Heaven seems very much like life here — a gated community where the elite live and the poor devils who didn’t make it are in Hell’s kitchen and other departments taking care of the needs of the chosen.  Please don’t tell me they are shoveling coal just to shovel coal.

This entry was posted in Friday Column. Bookmark the permalink.