What difference does it make if you go around once, or more than once?
The scene: a windswept mountaintop. A yogi with a long grey beard and robe sits on top, cross-legged, eyes closed. Joshua crawls up to the peak of the mountain, wearing professional mountaineering gear, gasping for breath. Joshua: “Are you the yogi?” Yogi: “No, I’m the short order cook. Do you want fries with that?” Joshua: “Ho, ho, very funny. I’m looking for the meaning of life.” Yogi: “Why?” Joshua: “Because it’s a good thing to know?” Yogi: “If you say so. Lots of people couldn’t care less. When is the last time you saw a dog curl up in front of the fireplace and have an existential crisis?” Joshua: “First question: is there such a thing as reincarnation, or do we only go around once?” Yogi: “What difference does it make?” Joshua: “What diff...? It makes a huge difference! If you only go around once, you have to work harder to get it right your one and only try! If there’s reincarnation you get to blame all your mistakes in this life on your past one, and know you can try again to do better next time.” Yogi: “Why not just do the best you can in this life either way, and let it go at that?” Joshua: “Because that’s too obvious! To be profound, it has to be mysterious and only comprehended by a special few.” Yogi: “If you say so.” Joshua: “Knock it off. You still haven’t answered my question. Is there reincarnation, or isn’t there? Like, was I a dog or a grasshopper in a past life?” Yogi: “Why make it either/or? When you die, your body decomposes into its component parts. God and/or the universe uses those component parts to make new life forms. Everyone agrees on that.” Joshua: “Well, sure, but that’s not the same as....” Yogi: Why can’t He do the same with the energy that animates you? There is probably some dog or grasshopper energy in you if you look hard enough. If we’re smart enough to recycle, why can’t the creator of the universe be, too?” Joshua: “What am I supposed to learn in this life?” Yogi: “What stupid mistakes do you consistently make again and again? Deep down, you probably already know what they are, don’t you? Figure out how to not make them any more, and that’s what you’re supposed to learn in this life.” Joshua: “But. . . .” Yogi: “And if there isn’t any such thing as reincarnation, you’re still ahead in this one life because at least you’re not making those stupid mistakes again and again, right?” Joshua: “I’ll bet people push you off this mountaintop a lot?” Yogi: “Nope, because I make an effort to learn from my mistakes. (He lifts his robe to display he’s wearing a seatbelt bolted to the granite mountain.) Joshua: “Just tell me something profound, so I can go home feeling I’ve learned something.” Yogi: “Your life consists of the choices you make, and how you deal with the consequences of them. So I ask you again: do you want fries with that?” (Joshua ponders the cost / benefit ratio of eating a few ounces of energy rich starches while mountain climbing.) Joshua: “Sure.”