Back in 1940 at the dinner table one night we’d been talking about a family picnic some years back. My little brother, Kenny, listened as names of people he knew came into the discussion. “Uncle Earl, Aunt Ida, Grandpa and Grandma,” and cousins “Harriet and Dean,” I could see something was troubling the little fellow. Finally it came out. We hadn’t mentioned his name.
“Was I there, Mama?” Sometimes the high pitch of a child’s voice can arrest other voices. We all listened to hear what Mother would say.
“No, dearie, you weren’t born yet.”
His face looked puzzled while he thought about that, and then he asked, “But where was I?” There was a kind of desperation in his voice.
“You were only a twinkle in your daddy’s eye then, Kenny.” Her answer didn’t satisfy him. His little face began to crinkle and tears welled up in his big brown eyes. “But where was I? he insisted.
I don’t know what was said then to comfort the little guy, but as I was remembering this the other day it got me to thinking. Why do most people believe more in a hereafter than in a heretofore? Is it because they believe life starts in the womb?
When I discovered the art of journaling I found my Muse to be the perfect one to turn to for answers. Muse would say, “I’m sure I don’t know the answer to that, but let’s think about it. Maybe we’ll stumble on one.” And, whatever the question, I’d find a satisfying dialogue in my own mind and on paper, even if no plausible answer came. The question could be tabled for another day. Then Muse and I would turn to less nebulous things like, “What’s on your calendar for today, my friend?” Muse always focuses on me and that’s why he’s such a good friend, for I, like most, find there are few more interesting than myself. Who we are and what we believe can show up on paper and surprise us. Like pre-existence and post-existence.
I remember hearing a professor at the University of California, Irvine, begin a talk on the subject "Science and Religion." His opening remarks still reverberate in my mind. As I recall, they went something like this: “Here we all are,” (arms outstretched and eyes looking over the entire audience,) “here on this ship of life together. Those among us who favor religion go to the bow of the ship and look out saying, ‘Where are we going?’ Then they go to the stern and ask, ‘Where did we come from?’” He paused, then went on. “The scientists aboard ship do the same and come back saying, ‘We can’t see anything out there. Let’s examine the walls of this ship.’”
Now doesn’t this give a person something to turn over in his mind? It shows that however essential the solid means and ends of life, these can only pale in light of the larger questions of whether or not we've known life before birth and will also know it after death. These questions are valid and worth pondering now and then but the answers can wait. They always do.