Last Sunday Dawn wrote a post on adoption, faith and the concept of something being ‘meant to be’ that made a lot of things fall into place for me. An awful lot of things, which is why I don’t know where to start from. And Dawn always throws the ball back at the reader at the end (a quality I don’t come across often enough in this world) which got me wanting to write about it, even though, obviously, I have not been involved in any adoption whatsoever. I just think that, when you get down to the essence of things, it doesn’t really make a difference whether it is adoption you are talking about or something else. (In this case, of course — not in general.)

Now that I’ve made a start, let’s get two awkward facts out of the way. One, my dad is a bastard who has been emotionally abusing the whole family in general, and me in particular, since he first got the chance to. And two, I have always had some issues with the concept of reincarnation. Not the idea itself, mind you: it seems (feels) reasonable enough, that is to say it makes sense, and I’m pretty sure the fact that a lot of religions point in that direction is not accidental either. All in all I am rather convinced that we do go through multiple incarnations on this planet, as much as I think one can be convinced of such things. (Which is quite a lot, but not entirely, as I will, I hope, make clear.)

Are you with me so far? Okay. Let’s complicate things a little more.

While living in Athens I spent time with the people I called the crazy psychologists, who seemed to believe that there probably is no such thing as reincarnation; or, at least, that believing that you chose the circumstances in which you were born “weakens you”. That is a little hard to explain; let’s just say they consider your strength in life to be directly proportionate to the respect you have for those to whom respect is due. By thinking that you chose your parents you put yourself in a position “above them”, which, according to them, is one of the worst things you can do. (It goes without saying that saying that your father is a bastard wasn’t considered a very good idea, either. Let’s say I didn’t quite agree with everything said there. Too many things to respect, not enough thinking, I thought.)

While living in Exmouth, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time with Steiner people. Who, as you may know, hold the idea of reincarnation pretty close to their hearts, or at least to the centre of the world view. They talk not only of life after death but of life before birth too (an idea often neglected in the rest of the world, it seems); of choosing the people we are born to and the school we go to and the people we meet in later life. (And, somehow, I don’t quite agree with that either. Too much thinking, not enough respect for those things that are beyond and above us.)

While in Cornwall (for the course’s “residential induction”, or whatever staying in a farm in the middle of nowhere with the people you are going to spend three years with was called) the course tutor mentioned reincarnation as linked to the fact that everything is meaningful. I protested. (I protest a lot.) I am more than sure that there is a reason behind most things, if not everything, but I don’t think this has to be linked with reincarnation. He tried to explain, but he only made it worse:

“So if I, as a teacher, am I a pain to you, it may be because you have been a pain to me in a previous life”.

Which is precisely the part I have issues with. I think that if, as a teacher, you are a pain to me, it is because you’re not trying hard enough to be a good teacher. And if you are an abusive father, then, well — then you are a bastard in my book. It may be true that I chose to come to this family (in fact, I think it probably is) but I didn’t chose other people’s actions, and neither did God: they chose them themselves. Also, these choices weren’t all made and set in stone when I was born: they were made day after day after day (those days that make up twenty-five-and-a-half years). They could have been changed at any given point in time.

And the reason why I heart Dawn is because she managed to put all this into place with a handful of words, like this:

[Note: Madison is her daughter, and she is adopted; Jessica is Madison’s birth mother.]

I believe that our soul/energies get a lot of options outside this planet and that one of them is coming around here and trying on different ways of being human. I really feel that Jessica, Madison and I have known each other before and that this is the way we’re part of each other’s lives this time. It’s the only way I can explain the profound love/familiarity I feel when I’m around Jessica.

This doesn’t excuse all the things that made Jessica create an adoption plan – it’s not a shrug-your-shoulders excuse for injustice – it’s just how I feel our family manifested itself. And it doesn’t let me off scott-free either. Like I can’t blithely say, “It was meant to be!” and skip along my merry way ignoring the human consequences of my actions. It’s more complicated than that.

You know Judaism says it kinda doesn’t matter what happens past this life – heaven, hell – it’s not up to us to worry about these things. We have to make our best possible efforts here, now. Our job here is to repair the world.

So there you go, it’s all clear now! We make choices. They are not directly, linearly linked to what happens to us in this life. They do not constitute an excuse, or –dare I say– even a reason for anybody else’s actions. Most importantly: whatever happens before or after this life is better left alone, or, at least, approached with great humbleness. That’s not to say we shouldn’t think of it. It just means I wouldn’t –I don’t– use it as a compass on how to live my life. While we’re here, our task is to concentrate on being here and doing our best at it: being true to ourselves, loving those who touch our hearts, being kind to those who don’t, and trying to make our little corner of the world a better place.

And for everything else, well — there will be a season.

[The soundtrack to this: Vashti Bunyan and, near the end, the Byrds.]