Recently overheard, in the recreation center’s weight room: “I was Jesus in a past life.”
Words In The Wind
I’ve always loved these sorts of randomly overheard snippets—words or phrases intended, apparently, for someone else’s ears.
From the point of view of the people involved in the conversation, no one else is supposed to hear what they’re saying. But we could easily reason that: from the point of view of the universe, anyone and everyone who just happens to hear, was supposed to hear …. because they did, in fact, hear.
So for instance … I’m cycling along the Boulder Creek path, on a warm spring afternoon. Just east of the Broadway Street underpass, near the Dushanbe tea house, I pass a man and woman walking together, in the opposite direction.
Within the second or two of auditory access to their conversation emerge the words: “Life on the spaceship is perfect.”
Though I have no idea what this means—in the context of their conversation—it puts a big smile on my face. I feel bemused and sweetly elated by this auditory gift.
Extracted from its original frame of reference, the sentence now takes on a whole new life within the field of Elizabeth’s body-mind. What arise, mostly, are images of Star Trek TNG: The glorious starship Enterprise (Boldly going where no one has gone before); the courageous and delightfully quirky Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Earl Grey, hot); the android Data’s perpetual quest to become more human; Counselor Troi’s wide-ranging empathic abilities; and all the rest.
Among utopian visions, the culture aboard the Enterprise remains a favorite.
But back to Jesus in the weight-room.
The first time I heard the voice proclaiming—“I was Jesus in a past life”—I was doing dumbbell bench-press repetitions. Because of my reclined position, I couldn’t immediately see the person speaking these words. With a wry smile and piqued curiosity, I continued my workout.
A couple minutes later, more-or-less the same thing: “Hi, what’s your name? … I was Jesus in a past life.”
It seemed that the person-with-voice was making his way around the room, introducing himself to as many other people as possible. Asking the other’s name, then revealing his past-life identity as Jesus.
As I tuned in a bit more closely—still happily supine, but more interested now in following these conversations—I realized that this man’s larger agenda was to propound the virtues of a vegetarian diet. So after his initial introduction, he would—when granted the opportunity—follow with a second sentence: “A vegetarian diet is necessary for world peace” or “If we want world peace, we have to stop eating animals.”
I still hadn’t actually seen this person (just heard the various conversations), and now had become irresistibly curious. So, very slowly, I turned my head in the direction of the voice—and caught my first peek of the self-proclaimed Jesus: young white man, late-twenties or early-thirties, reddish-blonde hair gathered into thick shoulder-length dreadlocks, wearing a colorful tie-dyed shirt and rainbow-striped socks.
Way too predictable, I thought. If asked to imagine ahead of time what kind of body the I-was-Jesus-in-a-past-life voice was coming from, I may well have guessed just this.
Anyway, now that I had an image to go along with the voice—which continued its crusade around the weight-room—I just carried on with my own exercise routine, deliberately avoiding making eye contact with the young man, though briefly imagining how I might respond to his introduction and world-peace opinions, if it came to that.
By and large, the people that he approached were friendly: neither directly challenging his past-life revelation, nor his heartfelt beliefs about the importance of being a vegetarian. Many of the details of these exchanges were lost to the general rumble of weight-room noises—but still I could discern the overall vibe as basically friendly and relaxed.
A couple of guys who were wearing headphones (to listen to music) ignored the man’s initial introduction, either because they genuinely couldn’t hear him, or they were pretending that such was the case.
That’s a good strategy, I thought.
Are Plants Sentient?
One of these conversations became a bit more involved—and I soon realized that the issue at hand was to what extent, if at all, plants have nervous systems … and hence are sentient/sensitive beings just as much as are humans and non-human animals.
With Jesus standing by his side, a man trying to complete his set of lat pulldowns was taking the position that plants just as much as animals are sentient beings—so that any argument about not causing harm to sentient beings had to be extended equally to plants …. making a vegetarian diet just as harmful (on this particular account) as a non-vegetarian diet.
What a quintessentially Boulder conversation, I thought.
Anyway, after going back-and-forth about it for some time, the man on the lat machine diplomatically suggested that “Well, we can just agree to disagree.”
To which Jesus replied: “We could, but you would still be wrong.”
Rivers & Tides
Now up until this point, I had been remaining basically agnostic around the reincarnation issue. I mean, who’s to say which resonances, which repeating patterns or isomorphic forms might not replicate themselves, across continents and centuries?
The high-mountain version of Boulder Creek appears in a much different context than the city’s version … yet something inclines us to identify both as Boulder Creek. In wintertime the bulk of the river freezes, and in the summer its flowing currents swell to the brim of its banks … yet we call them both Boulder Creek.
But the heavy-handed “… you would be wrong” sent up a bit of a red flag. Though I admired this man’s one-pointedness—his total dedication to a single simple message—taking the moral high ground in such an unforgiving way just didn’t quite feel like what (my image of) Jesus would do. Though there was that expelling the merchants and money-changers from the temple incident … as one example of Jesus displaying decidedly “fierce” love.
As the man claiming to have been Jesus in a past life left the weight room, I wished him well—and wondered why the universe had sent this series of conversations for me to listen in on. I still don’t really have an answer—but very much enjoyed them 🙂 .