This (Re)incarnation! This one!

In 1970, George Harrison released his magnum opus, All Things Must Pass, to universal acclaim. Ben Gerson of Rolling Stone called it an “extravaganza of piety and sacrifice and joy, whose sheer magnitude and ambition may dub it the War and Peace of rock and roll.”

What always struck me is that Harrison’s Hindu faith rang out clearly over American airwaves. My Sweet Lord contained chants to Krishna, and Give Me Love prayed “Give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth.”

Yes…keep us free from birth…

Liberate us from the tedium of endlessly starting over, the travails of failure and rebirth. Release us from the wearisome character traits that plague us repeatedly, undermining our freedom and joy as human beings.

Our most popular notion of karma makes sense – the notion that for every action there’s a re-action. We reap what we sow is a truth found in proverbs around the globe.

But does this spiritual axiom echo into eternity? The vast majority of us – even those lauded for our sterling characters – will die as unfinished works of art. We too often take repetitive and destructive behavior patterns to our graves. If there is an afterlife, will we receive a gift of peace and rest? Or are we slated for new incarnations to get it right, fresh opportunities to push these Sisyphean karmic stones up hills of our own invention and finally hurl them into the abyss?

Ultimately, I believe this question is more critical for our lives in the here and now. As a pastor for 32 years, I performed hundreds of memorial services. On too many occasions I thought, “How foolish to live an unexamined life, to tolerate these insanities that dictate our life’s scripts!”

Are we resigned to thoughts and actions that spin us on the hamster wheels of our minds? Like you, I have my own. Patterns of impatience and self-entitlement. The futile need to exercise control. Expectations that ferment into resentments. Fears that borrow trouble from the future.

It’s getting better. Much better. Assisted by diverse influences -Taoism, the 12 Steps, Jesus’s teachings before they were coopted by religion – I am experiencing more long-lasting reprieves from madness within and without.

But I want my Cinderella Liberty to last longer. Much longer. So, I sing with Harrison: “Keep me free from birth.” Join me! There are so many disciplines to help us recognize and overcome our character flaws on a daily basis. Meditation, centering prayer, recovery programs, therapy, spiritual regimens from many traditions, the counsel of trusted mentors and spiritual guides. We must use our willpower to employ these tools.

If we listen to the still, small voice inside us, it says, “Awaken. Be free now, not after death. Become as self-realized as possible in THIS (re)incarnation. THIS ONE! Learn to shed the cultural and genetic overlays that blind you from what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven – not a future reality, but a present reality that exists right now, within all of us!”

Whatever your notion of eternity, hear these words attributed to Marcus Aurelius and spoken by Maximus to rally his troops in The Gladiator, “What we do now echoes in eternity!”

Let’s do this, my friends!

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