I’m still perusing the 39 clues series, I just finished book 4. Despite my post about how profound these books actually were, I was surprised to din this passage:
Irina stared ahead at the wall. Rebirth, she realized. This chamber wasn’t about death at all. It was about rebirth.
Could that happen? After a life lived, after choice after choice after choice led you someplace small and dark…could you…change?
To give you a little context, Irina is an ex-KGB spy with the expected checkered past to match, and she is looking at an Egyptian painting of a queen going into the afterlife.
She recognizes the subtle idea hidden in almost all mythology somewhere, of new life.
This is not really a romantization on my part, or hers, surely anyone can see that any idea of the afterlife is a suggestion that we can have a new kind of life. Generally a better one than we have here.
Some people think that this being common to all cultures is a sign of how we fear death and want some kind of weak comfort out of it.
Such a person writes off heaven as wishful thinking.
What that person would be missing is two things: One, why do we fear death? And two, why are our ideas of what happens after it so oddly similar across culture. There’s an afterlife, but many common themes in even what kind of after life it is emerge. Themes like wealth, ruling, reunion with loved ones, and there being two different kinds of afterlife. The idea of being able to help our loved ones achieve the good life is a theme in many religions also, from Native American to Egyptian to the Catholic idea of Purgatory. (to be fair, I believe the idea of paying people out of it is now old, but it was the norm in Martin Luther’s day.)
But why do we fear death at all? And why do some religions even carry an idea of dying before you die? Of getting renewed even in this life?
Irina is contemplating this, and you could almost see her quoting those lines for Jean Valjean in Les Miserables: “Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone, this is all I have lived for, this is all I have known.”
Since I was using the 39 clues as an example of family problems, why not put this into that context?
It’s opening a can of worms to even ask how many of us have lived to get even with their relatives who hurt them. To see that they get paid back.
Or, how many of us have, as in Irina’s case, lived under the thumb of some of them. Unable to free ourselves because of our own weakness and desires to get ahead.
Never let it be said the root of fear and cowardice is not selfishness.
I can just feel how uncomfortable even thinking about it would make some of us, myself included. Ugh, I don’t want to think about it. How could I be so stupid as to try to even the odds? How can I still sometimes just wish to retaliate, regardless of the consequences.
If you’ve never felt like this,you are probably perfect…or you have no family. Sorry if that’s the case, but it’s a safe bet most of you do.
It’s not really mistakes that ruin a family dynamic, but the inability to move past them.
Whether someone can’t forget because it was just too traumatic, or because they are too spiteful to not want a shot at revenge, or because the other person is still dong it and constantly reminds them, family drama is a mess.
How many of us have the estranged sibling, the difficult child, the absent or abusive parent, or the critical extended family?
You don’t have to raise your hand.
Just thinking about it is painful.
So, what do we do? We have a terrible time even forgiving ourselves, let alone them.
It’s the sheer beauty of what she sees that make Irina start to wonder about rebirth. Could it be true?
Once, she’s back out, away from it, in the distraction of everyday, noisy life; she pushes it away. Yet the seed has been planted. Irina eventually ends up turning around.
Hope of that sorts sees fragile, better in fiction, but in our real sometimes awful situations, is it even possible?
Yes, it is.
The path of rebirth begins with wanting it. Sometimes it takes a terrible loss, a huge blow up, or sometimes it takes seeing a picture of something better. I’ve wanted it after seeing movies with more positive role models than I always had in my real life.
For your sake, I hope your calling comes through beauty, but may times it is through pain. Sometimes a mix of both.
Really, the method is not the important part. What we do with it is. Do we finally open ourselves up to rebirth? New life? A new way? Whatever the cost?
Or do we go back out into the everyday, noisy, busy crowds and lose ourselves in them.
How does rebirth happen?
It always involves a death first.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25.
There really is no avoiding my faith while talking about rebirth, even if I wished to. Jesus died for us already, but He also teaches us that we must die ourselves in order to be reborn.
“3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
“…And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3)
You know what’s interesting is that I’ve read and watched all sorts of genres, and been debriefed on related ones, to the point where I know the idea of dying is almost always tied to redemption and new beginnings.
The more mystical genres, such as many animes, fantasy movies/shows/books, and superhero sci-fi on occasion, have death along with resurrection. From Dragonball to Harry Potter to time travel epics to Superman, people die and come back to life in order to get final victory.
Genres like The 39 Clues are a little more practical, but the same theme of self sacrifice remains. especially in war stories. It is just irreversible. (The few exceptions to this are usually too weird and creepy to be valuable.)
Irina’s story also involves death in order for her redemption to be complete.
The idea I’m presenting is not really disputed, in fact, it just goes unacknowledged by most people.
God promises that with the death of our old self, the rebirth of our new selves will happen immediately.
“26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36.)
Change starts with you. That is perhaps the truest teaching of Gandhi, and it was hardly original. It might be more precise to say change starts within you.
All you have to do is ask and want it. Really want it. Sometimes we just have to be sick of ourselves before we can be willing to let go of all our grudges and selfishness.
Irina was sick of herself. And so was I, when it was my turn. I like myself much better now.
Until next time–Natasha.