28 November 2007

Reincarnation, Time Immemorial - AD 2007

As A Dodo can confirm that Reincarnation has died and not passed on to a better place, and most certainly isn't coming back as a worm, a lottery-winner or a cute ginger cat called Mr Fluffykins, following the news that the Dalai Lama has decided to end the 600-year-old Buddhist tradition of selecting his successor by a series of spiritual tests and replaced it with a ballot of monks across the Himalayas and Mongolia.

Reincarnation was first recorded in the Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads, around 800 BC and quickly became popular with Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and anyone else keen to escape a life of grinding poverty by dropping dead and returning a few rungs up the social ladder, or eager to see the utter git who kept lording it over them come back as a slug.

Meanwhile, when they were not pitting tortoises against hares in metaphysical races or eyeing up the pool boy, the Ancient Greeks were also busy pondering the subject. Even that great thinker Socrates said he was "confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead" - a concept much discussed over subsequent millenia and only recently proved with Tony Blair's escape from his scandal-plagued government without a scratch.

Over in the Middle East, Reincarnation was also proving popular with Judaism, with some rabbis giving each soul three chances to make it in the world - a belief the truth of which many believe is evidenced by the careers of Peter Mandelson and Noel Edmonds. With the arrival of David Blaine-wannabe, Jesus of Nazareth, the coming-back-after-your-death-thing really took off. (Although Jesus blew it when, after being taken down from the cross and banged up in a cave for three days, he came back as himself rather than anything more exotic - we have it on good authority, for instance, that Judas wanted to come back as "a bird ... maybe a nightingale ... or even a heron")

Later many Britons (particularly peasants) would dream of a quick release from a hard life and the chance to enter the spiritual lottery that was Reincarnation, though there was very little proof to substantiate the theory other than the occasional pig that bore a passing resemblance to Cardinal Wolsey or a sideboard that, in a certain light, looked just like Anne of Cleves. Indeed, by modern times thousands of people were claiming to have lived previous lives as Joan of Arc or Julius Caesar (but somehow hardly ever as Ned the manure-carrier or Wat the turnip-minder)

Not satisfied with the mere transference of a gone-before soul to a new-found body, Reincarnation did exactly what it said on the tin and reinvented itself. Concepts that were thought to be long-dead, such as putting innocent people in jail and throwing away the key, were resurrected under the new guise of the "war on terror", nations that were thought to have faded from power and influence, such as Russia, began to flex their muscles in London sushi bars and, astonishingly, the British Conservative Party saw itself reincarnated as a group of people who actually could organise a piss-up in a brewery ... though not necessarily a very enjoyable one

The move away from spiritual reinvention to cynical old re-treads left Reincarnation a shadow of its former self, forcing it to admit that it had little hope of coming back as something more profoundly meaningful to the modern mind than belief in the rejuvenating powers of plastic surgery, a big lottery win or a much younger girlfriend. With even the Dalai Lama suggesting that a form of election might be a better way to find a leader than seeing if that kid in the corner liked to play with the old Dalai Lama's walking stick, it was plain that the wheel of life had become wonky and worn bald. Reincarnation gave up the ghost for the last time and headed off to permanent retirement in Nirvana.

Reincarnation will be buried at the Status Quo Church of the Just One More Farewell Tour. It will be cremated and sealed in a lead-lined casket before being encased in cement - just in case it tries to come back as something else.