You know how some movies are purportedly historical? Inspired by actual events is the tagline I’m recalling. Well, consider this post basically the same. These things actually happened, but I’m going to take liberties with the prose to make it more readable, more blog worthy, if you will.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend today. Brad, as we’ll randomly call him, is a health enthusiast I’ve known for a few years, a man of few words, much confidence, and generally speaking he’s an agnostic with logical inclinations when it comes to life’s questions. So imagine my surprise when the topic of reincarnation — specifically karmic reincarnation — was brought up over cups of mocha at the local Tim Horton’s (basically, the great patriotic coffee and donut chain run by the Canadian government*)
“I’m not sure I can agree with that,” I recall myself saying. “I feel like you can’t believe in karma, the re-embodiment of human spirits in other bodies after death, and yet remain remotely atheistic.” Okay, so that last sentence was how eloquently I wish I’d put it, but that was the sentiment anyway.
“But I’m definitely not religious,” Brad told me. “It’s just that I wonder sometimes why bad things happen to good people. Maybe those good people are only good now, but in a past life they earned some kind of mistreatment.”
Yeeeash, I thought to myself, to borrow an expression of disdain from Clive Owen. This kind of topic would ordinarily make me raise an eyebrow, let alone to hear it coming from my pal who, under normal circumstances, rarely ventures beyond uttering maxims on horsepower or nutritional supplements.
Rather than dwell on the artistic merit of a crayon sketched dining table, which Awalou had felt compelled to mail me, Brad commented on something else
This wasn’t the first time in the last twenty-four hours that he’d alluded to this newfound view on existentialism. The night before, in between loading screens for Borderlands 2, he’d noticed a postcard atop which sat a glossy 4×6 photograph, bearing the likeness of an overseas teen named Awalou that I fund through WorldVision. Rather than dwell on the artistic merits of a crayon sketched dining table, which Awalou had felt compelled to mail me, Brad commented on something else. He wondered out loud what this little kid had done in a past life to warrant being born on that continent, and not our own, his very happiness contingent in some small part to donations made by anonymous foreigners like myself. I chuckled, thinking the statement to be bleakly humourous and little else. Apparently, I was wrong.
As Brad stumbled deeper down his theological rabbit hole, unwittingly pulling me in with him, we ended up discussing the very mechanics of time itself. “Everything has a beginning and an end,” he told me, I think trying to prop up a pillar in support of reincarnation. “But does it?” I countered. “There are scientific theorems that suggest the very passage of time is limited to planets,” dramatically (necessarily?) oversimplifying the so-called problem of time.
I don’t recall my conversational injections of relativity, space-time, or dark matter having much effect on his overarching view, which isn’t problematic as I wasn’t actually contesting his opinion, but just voicing my disagreement. Instead of continuing to verbally joust with him, however, I decided I was more curious about something else. What had lead to this sudden change in behavior? A near death-experience while bench-pressing perhaps?
“Let’s go for a drive,” he said, in response to my inquiry, “and I’ll tell you.”
“I think science is basically a modern man’s form of religion,” he said, with an upward flick at the ending of his speech, leading me to wait for a verbal plot twist that never came
We drove. Brad talked and I listened. Thus enlightened of the plight that had brought him here (which I shan’t mention), I posed a question, genuinely curious. “What are your thoughts on science versus religion then?” I mean, at this depth in the rabbit hole, why not pay Alice a visit?
“I think science is basically a modern man’s form of religion,” he said, with an upward flick at the ending of his speech, leading me to wait for a verbal plot twist that never came. If M. Night Shyamalan was manning Brad’s mental teleprompter, he’d evidently fallen asleep by now.
“I guess that’s somewhat true,” I responded, “in the sense that adherents of both are seeking answers to questions, both institutions aim to provide a form of guidance. It’s just my view that religion best attempts to answer moral doubt, where science proves the mechanics of existence. When has a Nobel Laureate advised spouses on the hazards of infidelity? But then, when has a church accurately explained nuclear fission?”
Brad didn’t respond right away, and I was worried I’d maybe offended him somehow, but then I remembered our dynamic, and how this was unlikely. Still though, we’d never gone this long disagreeing on a particular topic; it made me feel uneasy for a second.
“What about destiny?” I prodded, trying to find common ground by seemingly disputing more.
It took a long couple of minutes, weaving in and out of traffic, before I heard a response.
“Destiny’s kinda stupid in my opinion,” he said, with a familiar, mischievous laugh. “I think you have control over everything in your life.”
And just like that, old Brad was back.
“So, what do you think of the Infinity G35?”
*Disclaimer: Tim Horton’s is not run by the Canadian Government. That’s a joke. As there are over four-thousand locations world wide though, it might as well be…