photoI’m not that interested in whether reincarnation is “real.” As in the romantic ideations of former lives people spin that in some way propagate a wish for how they’d prefer their present life to be, i.e. “In my former life I was a ____________.”  Or, as a way of wiggling out of perceived shortcomings on this round – a get-out-of-jail-free card for the future, “Maybe I will be reincarnated as a ______________.”

I find it much more compelling to think of reincarnation as a system that reminds us that we’re constantly living and dying every day: dying, foregoing, surrendering, exfoliating, yielding, giving over, and, simultaneously, being delivered, renovated, refurbished, dumped off the bus, restored, redeemed, renewed – however you want to conceive of the ongoing ecology, the intracorporeal re-incarnation of the everyday.

Mark Doty’s poem, “Spent,” today’s poem-a-day on the Academy of American Poets takes up this ongoing rebirth, and asks the most challenging question,

“But how, exactly, to clamber across the sill”

which is, for me the main utility of an idea of reincarnation, that each time we’re “locked out,” we have a chance to come at it a new way – “Negotiate, submit?” – and be “reborn,” the encouraging proposition that in our actual lives we have the opportunity to keep trying something new, exhausting/”spending” ourselves into experience, and folding in what we’re just learning: the sporty combination of intention, agency, and manifold circumstance/chance that keeps things hopping.

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