A Tooth for a Tooth

If I could access memories of other lifetimes, would I recognize possibilities that are slipping by unnoticed in this one? Does George Santayana’s maxim— “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”—apply across the longer field-line of other lives and sentence me to reliving the same misunderstandings over and over?

I would like to think that being aware of what others are experiencing in this present life broadens my experience of the world we share in a comparable way.

People who remember other lifetimes—or perhaps they just think they do—are not necessarily more able to explore the fullness of this present life. They may, like me, just be scrambling after the small change of moments tumbling through a hole in the pockets of eternity.

Aren’t we all thieves patrolling our neighborhoods, searching for what we feel we lack? It may be self-esteem, material wealth, or peace of mind, but even if we find what we think we want it rarely satisfies us for long.

I know what it is to be a thief of time, searching for some rare coin in the gutter, or a Micky Mantle Rookie card in an old suit jacket hanging in a thrift store; searching for exceptional moments, as if the entire course of life could be assembled from its fragments.

I have a friend who demands more of her time and heart than I do; and, as a result, is exhausted at the end of each day. As she drives around town, she looks at the passing homes and doesn’t wonder what it would be like to live there. Instead, she wonders where she would take a nap. On that porch swing? On that window seat?

I don’t think she is ransacking moments in the way that I do. She seems more like the Tooth Fairy, who—after exchanging a few quarters for the worn-out teeth of childhood—pauses to drink in the sounds of peaceful dreams. And, for those who are tossing and turning, she pulls out a silver dollar and shines it until it gleams like the full moon.

The Tooth Fairy doesn’t need to remember previous lifetimes, and perhaps she doesn’t have any. She doesn’t need to remember a personal past, although she often does. She moves through this world of childhood’s end, sensing in each child the tentative beginnings of a new world.

In these times, ours is not the path of Prometheus, who was willing to steal fire from the gods and share it with anyone huddling around a metal barrel in the cold wind. This is a time to harken to the voices telling us not to forget.

We are not alone. Even if, in this late season of the world, what is truly valuable cannot be found on the auction blocks surrounding us–we can still find its echoes within whatever moves and touches us.

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