Friday, February 3, 2012

Relative-ity, Friends, and Beyond

There is a book that I recommend to almost everyone with whom I enter into a discussion about books.  It is The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.  An alternate history that looks at what  what the world might be like if Europe had succumbed completely to The Plague rather than recuperating from it.  It also looks at souls traveling together through time and space, through multiple incarnations.  I recommended it to a friend on this trip I just finished.  

Sometimes I wonder about the people, the spirits, we meet and and connect with throughout our lifetimes.  What random tumble of the dice allows us to be born into the families into which we are born?  After living with a hard core "this reality is all there is" type scientist for decades, I am somewhat reticent to publicly discuss spirituality as it always seems to venture into what I call woo-woo.  I thought about this a lot during my recent road trip. 

What makes us instantly connect with one person and let scores of others pass through our lives with little note?  How do we explain not seeing someone for years and years and then sitting down to talk with that person and realizing hours have passed in conversation and it is as though the years of separation have not happened?  I do not know.  I am far less of a skeptic than my husband, but I feel extremely comfortable with the peace I have with knowing there is so much more yet not having the need to limit myself to a particular set of beliefs.  Beliefs from around the world intrigue me. I think that is why this speculative fiction novel by Robinson so appeals to me.  His research is impeccable.  He conveys times and places and in this case peoples as though he has lived them.  These times, places and peoples have never existed.  He relates his connection to essences of human experience and human cultures in ways that could have happened. 

Years ago when I first read this book, I felt that the portrayal of the persistence of human spirits as well as the evocation of coherent cultures made the book one of the best speculative fiction novels I had ever read.  Sometimes writers capture archetypes.  This is what Robinson did. 

All cultures seem to have some concept of a spiritual dimension.  Sometimes members of cultures believe there are souls, for others there is a life energy to which we return, even in the scientific belief set nothing is ever created or destroyed, only transformed.  

All of this somehow combines into my occasional glimpse of the essence of my personal theology that is fueled by connections to people, gut feelings, and the occasional experiences that have no good explanation. 

Do our energies continue beyond this life?  Do they recur together?  Don't know.  I don't know that I will ever know, but sometimes I like to believe that they do.  It is great to have a literary work I can share that conveys a belief that I cannot even describe for myself.  It is doubly wonderful to share it with people who I feel as though I have a much deeper or longer life experience than our actual time together would seem to explain. 

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