When I was at grade school, I used to glance at the younger children waiting for lunch and wonder which one was having the same experiences as me the year before. I would look at the pastel tiles on the walls, measuring out the spaces that I would inhabit. I was a scrawny child and didn’t take up much space. I used to look around and wonder where the younger me was.
When I moved to the “big kids” side of the elementary school – behind the main school drive and closer to the corn fields – I wondered if another me started school at that point: I would be someone who the younger me wouldn’t know but I would be experiencing the same things as her. It was as if I believed life was a squiggly line and that we would encounter ourselves regularly throughout each life. (I wonder what a squiggly line of children would look like?) Of course, I never ran into myself.
When my only sister came along when I was 12, I started to revisit the idea that I was spiritually linked with someone younger. Maybe the gap wasn’t one year but 12? However, as she grew up I saw her as her own person with her own motivations and goals. She is a wonderful woman. However, in many ways, she’s not like me. She’s not another me.
Now that I have nieces I again find myself wondering if I might encounter another version of myself. Logic dictates that there can only be one me in the physical universe at once. Why do I keep coming back to this circular notion? Is it because my idea of life isn’t just a matter of born, live, die and that’s it? If we are born, live, die and then repeat, then the universe can be perceived as a wheel – or the beating of a heart where the lifetime is one mere heartbeat?
How strange it must be to have that kind of perspective – to look back at lifetimes like novels in a bookstore! Each section noting the stories and lessons worth remembering. (?) Is it really useful to keep looking back? Or was the Buddha right in saying that we should only focus on what remains undone?