The phrase and paradigm “you only live once” is slipped into the global conversation often enough. It frequently comes packaged with a message that, as they said in the beer commercial years ago, “you only go around once in this life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can.”
You only get one chance at life. You’ve gotta buy the right beer.
In this popular expression, living more than one life is not on the table. Reincarnation is not a topic open for discussion. Just buy the right beer.
People often meet my interest in near-death experiences and afterlife speculation with the retort that focusing on an afterlife means I won’t be paying appropriate attention to the precious now. Living for a great beyond is a waste of this life. (They also say this about devout Christians who live for their heavenly reward and as a result do not get engaged in life here and now.)
I maintain — at least for myself — that a belief in reincarnation and afterlife inspires me to engage more in life, not less.
I think about times I feel blue. In periods of sadness and emptiness, I think that yeah, I could be done with life on this planet. If I were struck down by lightning and vaporized, I could accept it. The previews of coming attractions for me don’t look too interesting.
At that point I’m living for potential that some wonderful event not currently on my radar will show up on the next page of my life’s script. Just you wait. Don’t give up!
If I really, truly thought that I only get one shot at life, I would probably be thinking during those shadowy periods that the ride was pretty much over. The roller coaster has arrived back in the station, and new thrill-seekers are eager to climb aboard.
The facts are in: I missed my opportunity to win an Oscar. I’m not going to die as a rich bastard with the enviable mansion. I am not even going to have a fulfilling career I can brag about. I may never fall in love again. I have no children to care about what their father thought.
Seriously, my world sometimes looks pretty sad and lonely when compared to the travel brochures of my imagination.
No, I am not suicidal, but when I am in a funk, my safety net is my belief that there’s more to life than you only live once. I think you only live once is more of a marketing strategy to motivate us to buy things, buy things, buy things. And buy them NOW before it’s too late, mate! It’s as if we’re prepped from childhood to live in scarcity consciousness. The gusto is elusive. Blink and it’s gone.
We’re taught that science says we only live once. Dead people won’t wake up anywhere. We don’t get a heaven. In a bizarre way, science seems to encourage suicide with its depressing insistence that this is all we get, followed by an existence as ashes and dust. You can’t take your Rolex and Ferrari with you, sorry. Spend your money now so some entrepreneur can put on a great dinner party with the profits.
For me, because I think science is lazy about investigating death, prematurely ending this existence could have a very ugly ripple effect on my cosmic future. That’s something they don’t talk about much in mainstream living.
Many near-death experiencers, psychic mediums, and even some religions insist that we have a life review in store (albeit exactly how those are described as conducted varies widely.) The prospect of answering for my life in some afterlife realm of existence keeps me in the game. Enough anecdotal reports say that I am accountable for my life.
Reincarnation supposes that we live our lives for a purpose. Each incarnation in Earth School adds to the body of knowledge and experience for the soul. Over the course of our multiple lives we incarnate in a wide variety of situations including different races, different ethnic/religious upbringings, different genders and sexual preferences, and so on.
All this raw data of multiple-life experience is sent to our soul. Every life is important to that soul. (Keep in mind that this is my fantasy of the cosmos; I don’t expect you to buy it.)
This view keeps me motivated. I like to think that my experience here is worth something to the collective. Even the shitty parts. My loneliness could mean something. My disgust with world politics could mean something. My relative lack of financial/career success could mean something. My heartbreak and disillusionment could mean something.
I could have been the brave essence that volunteered to be the me that I became, with all the good stuff and the bad stuff included as part of the package. The mistakes that I made could be part of the equation allowing another part of me in another time and space zone to make a different and ostensibly better choice.
I could be doing the grunt work so that another expression of my soul can live happily ever after (a future blog post: what does living happily ever after mean?) Hopefully, the consciousness that is me now will be able to viscerally experience what that paradise on earth feels like. Maybe there’s a great library in soul space.
The you in you only live once, I believe, is the brain, the ego, the life circumstance. So in that sense, I only live once. Anyone else that my soul incarnated as or will incarnate as had/gets a clean slate, a brand new brain, a whole new outlook on life from the experiences gained in that life.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I hate my life or that I feel as victimized as my prose might lead you to think. When I am in a funk, reincarnation is the thought ploy that I use to alter my mood. I tell myself to do the best that I can in the circumstances that engulf me. Maybe there is a point to it all.
There is also a point, I believe, to rally the inner troops and fight for the life that I want to lead. I am not taking a fatalistic view that karma or whatever runs my whole show. I still go after what I want. I still dream big. I am still grateful for what I have. I don’t suffer needlessly. When the fog of gloom lifts from whatever is bothering me, I take great joy basking in the bright skies of optimism, which is my usual hang-out.
For those more motivated by one life to live, remember this: You only go around once in this life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.