As such, I am interested in the various philosophical takes on the matter held by various historical and/or contemporary faiths. One model that particularly interests me is the ancient Graeco-Roman view of the underworld, with all its punishments that fit the crime. One of the underworld's interesting geographical features is the river Lethe, that makes you forget, the only source of water for the shades who live there. Eventually, once a spirit has partaken of its waters enough, it will be returned to the surface to live again.
In other words, you don't remember your past lives. And that drives me nuts. Why, why, why, I ask the gods, do we have to keep coming back and making the same mistakes over and over again? How are we expected to learn from them, if we keep getting our memories wiped between incarnations?
The gods returned to me the following reasons:
- Never-ending Grudges. That guy sitting across the restaurant from you? He robbed you for everything you've got three lives ago. Given the loooong memories some people have for holding a grudge, can you imagine what that would be like carried forward from one life to the next? How many times would Hitler's incarnations be executed before he was allowed to live again, if people knew who he was this time around?
- Wash Away Guilt. You were trying to do the right thing, really ... there was no way those people would have survived in the desert anyway ... it was merciful to kill them quickly and get it over with. An atrocity? Maybe ... or maybe it was the least of evils.
If only you could forget that life. It's been 6,000 years, dammit!
- Clutter Builds Up. Think of it as a spiritual reboot. Your parents messed with your head and everybody laughed at you in high school ... but thank goodness you don't remember that time you were a slave for forty years, that really wreaked havoc on your psyche. And what about that time you were tortured to death? You're still unaccountably afraid of the dentist, even with the forgetting!
Okay, gods, I concede, those are good reasons. But isn't there some way to preserve the stuff that should be preserved?
There is. It's called art. It's called literature. It's called science. It's called philosophy. That's why you've been given that irrepressable urge, to create it, to consume it, and to preserve it.
But what about the people who deliberately destroy that kind of thing? Does the phrase "Library at Alexandria" mean anything to you?
Now you're getting into that "Why is there evil?" question again. We've been through that before.
Yeah, and you were evasive then, too.
Shup, boy, we're gods. We know what we're doing.