What if all the things you’re afraid of are things that killed you or hurt you in a previous life?
I had a lot of irrational fears when I was little. Among them:
- spiders (okay, maybe not so irrational)
- lighting matches
One day, I started trying to figure out why I was terrified to light a match. Grown-ups did it easily. Lots of other kids did it easily, too. But I just couldn’t bring myself to put my fingers that near a flame. It would hurt. I would be burned. Without it having to happen, I knew it would hurt like hell. I could almost smell the burn of flame on flesh and feel the liquid blisters puff up on my skin. Why didn’t other people see this?
“It’ll go away,” people said.
But it didn’t.
Explaining the Unexplainable
My teen years came and went and still, I refused to light birthday candles. Long fireplace matches? Sure, they’re fine for 10 seconds, but then it’s armageddon at your fingertips. Not a real solution. The only real solution I found was one of those super-long plastic firestarter things where you click a button. Far safer than cigarette lighters, where you still had to put your fingers in close proximity to the number one ingredient in hell.
But what if, in a past life, I burned to death? What if our psyche somehow retains glimpses of what went before and we don’t realize it and can’t explain it…except for the fact that flame now turns us into a shivering ball of meaty Jell-o?
It seems like an ordinary fear, but there’s no reason for it. I’d never been burned as a youngster. Never even been around open flame very much. But something told me to stay far, far away from even a tiny pinch of a flame. Logic and reason hold no sway in my mind as far as matches and fire are concerned. I’d like to think it’s some far-away experience warning me not to make the same mistakes I did in a past life.
Rationalizing the Irrational
Of course, the idea of a past life brings up a world of existential crises in terms of cosmology and world view. Do I have answers for everything? Of course not. That’s why I write. But I believe Hamlet when he told Horatio that there are more things in heaven and earth than we’ve dreamed of in our beta-blocked, chemically distilled, IKEA-friendly philosophies.
There are other things I think might carry over, too. An unexplained love of a place. An unexplained love of a time period. I’m not talking about things that have identifiable beginning points. If you watched Twin Peaks and fell in love with Washington, your love is not unexplained.
But if you’re a five-year-old who feels out of place everywhere in the modern world and at home in the medieval architecture of Sleeping Beauty, that’s kind of weird. And since I can’t stand unsolved mysteries, this theory is my way of trying to solve the mystery of why I’m so out of place in my own life. Always have been. Always will be. I like things that no one I know likes. Why? How did I know I liked these things if no one showed them to me? Why do they feel more like discovering the familiar glow of home than the heart-racing reality of something new? Unless they are remnants from a past me.
It’s symmetrical. It’s romantic.
And it makes some things a hell of a lot easier to understand. What do you think?
Some more food for thought:
- Someone in the U.S. dies in a fire every 169 minutes (according to the CDC). Someone is injured in a fire every 30 minutes.
- During the Spanish Inquisition, as many as 2,000 people were burned at the stake for offenses ranging from heresy to blasphemy to witchcraft to bigamy and Freemansonry.
- The fear of fire is called “pyrophobia.” The word comes from the Greek for fire (pur) and fear (phobos).
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