About twenty years ago I was arguing with my friend Skip that it was foolish to put money into a lottery ticket. He said that he and some of his buddies each put in a dollar and one of them went over to the local mom and pop store and purchased however many tickets he had dollars. Skip also bet a dollar on his birthday numbers. Okay, so he was out two bucks, but all the same it was millions to one odds that he would win. But he argued it was possible, and that if you didn’t buy a single ticket you didn’t have a chance of winning. Okay, I would say, but the payback on the lottery is about ten percent after all of the various scrape offs were made. But it isn’t impossible to win. Okay, okay it isn’t impossible, but it is extremely unlikely. And there it ended.
Or so I thought. In fact he had a seventeen million dollar ticket in his pocket. It was probably a good idea to wait a few days before turning that ticket in, because it did totally change his life. Any big change is stressful, but winning that kind of money means you must move away from your old friends and cultivate new ones. It is impossible to maintain a friendly relationship between equals when one of them is suddenly a multimillionaire; everything is different and strained.
Well, it isn’t impossible to win the lottery, and I never claimed it was impossible, I just insisted it was a very poor investment. Nowadays, I have friends with whom I argue about things that are even more unlikely to happen than winning the lottery. Some of them are vehemently enthusiastic about what they call their spirit being, an eternally conscious thing, and that they are only temporarily inhabiting their fleshy body. They claim that this experience is only a training ground for something better, and after a couple more fleshy training experiences they will move on to unimaginably better styles of living — well, not living in the usual sense, but something infinitely better.
I support the right of every person to believe and speak up for what they believe, and I don’t contradict people when they say things that I believe are impossible. I do make a sincere effort to see things from the point of view that they are espousing. I ask why they believe they have a permanent spirit, and they say things like, because they have personal experience of previous lives. I ask them how I might gain that experience, and soon there comes talk of a training that will take years, but there are a few books that will help me get started, some of which I have looked through. They are by people who have had experiences, and some are extraordinary, like people who were technically dead, and on life support systems for a week, and then returned to a normal life. I’m not willing to go through that kind of experience to change my beliefs, and I hesitate to trust the thought processes and remembered experiences of someone whose brain wasn’t functioning for a week.
I feel comfortable that I am part of the Universe, and that it has given me life and consciousness, and I am comfortable to believe that those things are natural interactions of the materials of the Universe. They are very special things that resulted in me, but they are no more special than those that resulted in you. Those things are possible and the proof is that we are here, doing what we do. It seems to me that the spirit-world things are impossible flights of imagination, and I am willing to support people’s right to that belief, but…
Believing in a spirit world would conflict with my reality and interfere with my living a tranquil life here and now in this world.