On the occasion of the Summer Solstice, I decided to head over to New Renaissance Bookstore to return a DVD and see if they still had copies of a new book, The 7 Secrets of Synchronicity. They did, and I was thrilled. I had waited a couple weeks to buy this book because I wanted to officially inaugurate my "Summer of SynchroNICKity" on the day of Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year).
I can't begin to tell you what a thrill it is to actually buy a book written by people I've gotten "to know" first (through their awesome blog on Synchronicity that has become required daily reading for me). I've even exchanged emails with both Trish and Rob MacGregor a few times and feel like they are genuine people I can call my friends. Besides that, they also serve as inspirations for me because they have followed the trail of synchronicities away from a day-to-day office job into a dream writing career, which they have done full time now for several decades. Sadly, I had never heard of them or their books, until they had emailed me in response to a post I had written last year about the most amazing coincidence I ever had (the coincidence that led me back towards a spiritual view of the world during my "atheist era"--1990-1993). I really look forward to reading this book and hoping that my summer will live up to the title I'm bestowing upon it. I would love to increase the amount of synchronicity in my life. Since it was synchronicity (of the "trickster" sort) that convinced me to accept my current job four summers ago, it would be poetic justice if synchronicity got me my dream job before this summer ends.
On Facebook, my best friend (Nicholas)'s brother and I got into a debate regarding religion because of what I felt were unnecessary insulting comments about spirituality on my Facebook wall in the past. I don't have issue with him being an atheist, but reading his comments does remind me exactly why atheism lost its appeal to me when I was a young man. Granted, my "atheist era" was greatly influenced by my admiration for my favourite teacher who was a very vocal atheist advocate. He was kind of a father figure to me, as he represented the qualities I had wanted for myself which my dad lacked. Once I embraced the atheist view of life and went off into the Navy, getting stationed far from any RLDS church congregation, I just lived...and argued with my religious minded shipmates.
However, between 1991 and 1993, I had quite a few interesting coincidences, which culminated in the oddest coincidence ever: my happening to be on a specific bus leaving the Naval hospital in Naples when it almost ran over two Mormon missionaries on bicycles. One of the missionaries looked exactly like a friend of mine from seventh grade whom I had lost contact with in 1985. Eight years later, our paths crossed at the exact brief second in time in a far away place. I could have taken a later bus and this chance encounter would not have happened. Because I was intrigued by the possibility that it was my old friend from junior high school (in Bellevue, Nebraska), I investigated it by contacting the Mormon chaplain who was stationed at the Navy base in Naples.
What I learned was that my friend, John Adams, happened to need his glasses fixed or to get new contact lenses (can't remember the details on that) and since his father was in the military, he still had his dependent ID card, which allowed him to use the military facilities. He was serving a Mormon mission in Rome. I happened to be in Naples because of my own persistent eye problem. I had red eye for many months and despite the doctor in Squadron 22 insisting that I see the eye specialist in Naples, I put off going because of the other yeoman taunting me that my going would not reflect well in the command because it would be seen as a "boondoggle." Finally, the doctor insisted, telling me, "If you care about your eye, you really need to go before it gets worse." Boondoggle or not, I wasn't going to sacrifice my vision for the sake of the Navy. Had I gone at any other time, I would have missed that brief encounter with my old friend.
The trip was good in another way, as well. One shipmate had let people borrow his copy of Madonna's expensive Sex book. There was no word on if he was returning to the ship (based in La Maddalena, on the island of Sardinia), so I took it upon myself to retrieve his book and return it to him personally. When I saw him in the barracks in Naples and gave him the book back, he was so happy, as he thought he would never see it again.
I could have stayed in Naples a lot longer if I wanted to, because it was hard catching a MAC flight back to Sardinia. I had to wait for an available slot and they only had two flights a week, if I remember correctly. I decided to catch the train up to Rome and catch the ferry from Civitavecchia to Olbia, Sardinia. This allowed me to visit the Mormon mission where John worked to catch up on old times. Disappointingly, he didn't seem to remember me at all, though he took my word for it.
This coincidence has been an enigma for me, as it did not rekindle an old friendship. Whenever I tell this to Mormons, they believe that it happened because I was meant to join their church. However, I disagree. I believe its just one of those things that happened to snap me out of the atheist view and embrace a spiritual view where mysteries happen. It was this coincidence, in fact, which effectively ended my "atheist era." I had no doubt anymore that God exists. This was "the evidence" I needed, because every way I looked at it, the mathematical probability statistics that such a brief encounter could happen just seem too unlikely. There were too many varibles that could have caused this brief meeting not to happen (my being on the bus that almost ran over my Mormon friend's bicycle in Naples at a specific time in 1993). So began my era of coincidences.
The following year, 1994, the novel The Celestine Prophecy became a huge success, which got a lot of people thinking about coincidences and the meanings behind them. I also met a sailor who belonged to the same church that I did, and in talking about our life stories, realized that his family had eaten at my family's house a decade earlier (though I still can't remember that event. My dad, and his family remember it). My friendship with this sailor, Nathan, has become one of my best (I'm fortunate to consider two people to be my "best friends") and I consider him to be my spiritual brother.
About my other best friend's brother, who is an atheist. In many ways, I envy my best friend for having an older brother like him, who is pretty intelligent, funny, and lives an interesting life. He's exactly who you want as an older brother. However, I was shocked to read his comment on Facebook that he found my belief in reincarnation and my interest in Mormonism to be "outrageous." Outrageous! There are religious people KILLING other people who don't believe the same as they do, or evangelical Christians in our country wanting to elect another like-minded candidate (Sarah Palin) as president to bring us closer to a Christofascist theocratic state than their last favoured candidate has done (that'd be GWB). There are people going door to door peddling their religion (Mormons, Moonies, and Jehovah's Witnesses). Hard to believe that despite all those scenarios imposed by religion, that it is my belief in reincarnation and my interest in Mormonism (from a purely historical perspective, though, as I don't believe their doctrines to be true, except for "eternal progression", which I view as part of the evolutionary and reincarnation process, though Mormons don't believe my interpretation of that belief, of course) which is considered to be "outrageous"!
So, I explained to my best friend's brother that my belief in reincarnation is not some whimsical, flaky trend du jour. This is actually based on stories that I've read and heard about since childhood, on many books I've read on the topic since 1998, the year I finally accepted the idea as the most likely explanation on how our world works. There is a professor at the University of Virginia who has made it his life's work to document case studies of children (and adults) who have past life memories that can be verified by actual locations, dates and people. If I pursue grad school someday, this course of study is #1 on my list, though it would likely not lead to a well-paying career.
Reading this atheist's comments only reminded me of why I lost interest in the atheist groups I was a part of in the 1990s. They often talked about being "open minded" but I found that in reality, they were every bit as closed minded and dogmatic in their belief system as religious people. The way my mind works is that I am curious and open to possibilities. While I don't accept views taught to me without testing them out for myself, I am interested in hearing other people's personal spiritual experiences. Once you move people away from the dogmatic view of professing to literally believe in events they weren't a witness to thousands of years ago, you get to the very heart of their personal spiritual stories, which is always intriguing. Within my own church, my personal belief in reincarnation has caused me much grief when I shared them with fellow church members as with atheists. Why is reincarnation so threatening to people? Why can't more people just read up on some intriguing case studies and ponder the possibilities? You don't have to believe it...but why be automatically dismissive of the idea?
Consider this...out of all the beliefs out there, none seem able to explain the diversity or why some people are drawn to a certain religion but not others. There is an attempt to force conformity on people and many who have a conformist mindset believe that everyone must believe the same thing as they do, because in their minds, the truth depends upon conformity of belief. Yet people have different abilities and talents. How was Beethoven or Mozart able to be such musical geniuses? How do you explain child prodigies? Why do some people have an inexplicable interest in certain topics, such as the Civil War or Space or the Renaissance or the French Revolution? Why do some people have phobias when their life experience does not show any trauma regarding such phobias? The whole basis of reincarnation is that we are eternal beings and life on earth is a set period full of challenges and opportunities. If we only had one lifetime to live, why do some people have such unfortunate circumstances (such as being handicapped or in poverty or unattractive or living in developing world countries where disease and violence are part of their everyday experience), while others are blessed (with wealth, physical beauty, diverse experiences, ability to travel, dream careers)?
Additionally, every religion has its own version of the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"). Why? How did this happen? Could it be possible that the founding mystics of each religion touched on the core basis of spirituality, which is known to some as "the law of Karma" (which even atheistic science has a version of: "for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction"). The basis of this law is that every action that we do has consequences and we will eventually reap those consequences (for good or for bad) at some point. Also, if we develop our talents or pursue our interests, sometimes bad things happen and life is cut short. What happens to those talents? Could it not be possible that child prodigies reflect a previous lifetime or lifetimes of developing such talents?
Just as in 1994 when I was disappointed that my atheist hero, my senior year government teacher, mocked coincidences as random occurences, I am baffled by my best friend's brother's dismissal of my beliefs as being "outrageous." I'm not out to convert the world or make everyone believe the same. I simply wish people would take a step back and consider the possibility with an open mind. There's no need to scratch your head and wonder why something happened if you can examine it from another perspective, through the use of synchronicity, coincidences, etc.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, though, I will say this. The great thing about my belief in reincarnation is that I believe people are in the religion they need to be in. In my belief system, there is no need to waste energy trying to convert people to believe the same as you do. If people are happy with their religion, they should stay. If they aren't, they should seek a religion that best reflects them. I am proud of the fact that I can get along with almost anyone of any religion. I can listen to their testimonies and support them in their beliefs without feeling a need to join them, just as long as they realize that my not wanting to join their religion is not an indication that I believe that their religion is wrong for them. In many ways, I am like a mosquito who seeks to extract the essentials of every spiritual belief system to incorporate into my own. In this lifetime, I am a member of the Community of Christ. In a previous lifetime, I was likely a Catholic. Perhaps in a future lifetime, I might even choose to be born into a Mormon family. I don't see anything wrong with that.
However, I feel sorry for people who are too closed minded to even consider the possibilities that reincarnation presents. To call it outrageous is ignorance. For it does not matter if a person believes in reincarnation or not, that is not the point. The point is...what is the purpose of our existence and what on earth do we do for eternity if you believe that we have a soul? How do you explain the different levels of talent, or intelligence or life experience? Why are some people blessed while many others live in hellish conditions? Where is the fairness? How can we be challenged to grow if we spend most of eternity in a perfect spiritual realm after a short lifetime on earth? Which belief system best answers those questions? Certainly not atheism!
Interestingly enough, my former government teacher whom I admired a lot as a teenager and credit for helping me to break out of the religious ideas imposed upon me by my church and parents, had approved my Facebook friend request last week. He has considered himself a Buddhist for at least a decade now. Though we've never discussed what led him away from atheism, a part me hopes that it was for the same reasons why I never felt comfortable with it: a lack of awe and wonder at the mysteries of life, and the close-mindedness to possibilities presented by synchronistic events which purely atheistic science cannot explain with satisfaction.
So, don't fault me because I find reincarnation to be the most logical explanation for the meaning of our lives. As I learned in the 1990s about the closed-minded dogma of atheism, if given the choice of living in a world where atheistic science is what everyone believes and all beliefs regarding the mysteries of life or synchronicities and coincidences are dismissed and ridiculed versus a world where spiritualism is valued and appreciated, allowing a wide spectrum of religions and non-religions to exist and influence people, of course I'd choose a world of spiritualism over atheistic science. I don't like atheistic science for the same reason why I dislike fundamentalist Christianity. Its the insistence that their dogma is the absolute truth and all mysteries are drained of meaning or possibilities. I much prefer diversity to conformity anyway.
Here's to a summer full of synchroNICKities!