LIVING MANY LIVES IN A LIFETIME
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
January 12, 2018
As Jill nears retirement from Ohio State next August, and we prepare to move from my 1957 family home in Rush Creek Village in Worthington, Ohio, the town where I started first grade in 1951, to our new home near (grand)children in Durango, Colorado, I think of our good fortune, in effect lived many lives with many relations in many places. I remember growing up thinking that I as an academia brat had grown like military brats—moving with parents from place to place. Born as I was just before World War II ended, when housing was short and my dad, having been denied a faculty appointment because he was Jewish, moved alone to East Lansing, Michigan, to find housing for my mom and me, who lived with grandparents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Haverford, Pennsylvania, for most of my first year of life. It took two more university jobs for my parents to move with me to Ohio. Spending my last year of secondary school as the only foreign (language) student in my class profoundly influenced my social perception…then college and law school and grad school and three jobs to keep one in Bloomington, Indiana, where our daughter Katy was born and lived all the way through high school. In a word, my life, has been nomadic in all my relations save one: My life with Jill since 1973 with a few years of commuting in between, in a town where I lived nearly half my life, where Katy was born, grew up and retains childhood friendships, and our pending return to a life with our only child and her family, where I expect to die close to my nearest and dearest lifetime companions.
There have been times in my life when I envied, felt left out from, those who were more rooted, close to home—looking for ways to belong, most acutely as an isolated foreigner in a new language, wanting a home. Now, rooted in an enduring marriage and (grand)parenthood, I have found privilege in having been able to live with and learn from people in so many times and places in my life, now always with a family to come home to…and as I’ve been able to do in U-Hi, in Worthington, and in returning to neighborhood life in Rush Creek Village, and often continue to do on visits back and forth, to stay connected.
My mother sent me up the road from our Worthington apartment to “learn about the Bible” at the Methodist Sunday school now just 3 blocks from home, where I got focused on the question of life after death. I came to realize that, as Elise Boulding put it, I had a window of living memory that extended from the great grandparents, refugees from Eastern Europe whose remains are interred in the Jewish cemetery in Evansville, Indiana, to my grandparents and (great)great aunts and uncles from Mississippi/Louisiana, now to Jill’s and my grandchildren, Mila and Evan. Mila and Evan now also have visited cousins in Poland and seen ancestral Prague…AND the many people I have known and learned with and from outside extended family, from colleagues living and now long dead in and around, and students past and present, and the many people who have shared their worlds with me. It is true that many of my relations have been transitory. In that sense, I know more people perhaps more shallowly than those of us who never leave home know our neighbors and local friends, but some do linger, as with my high-school classmates, and with those I have taught and worked with.
I’m open to the possibility that the souls of my parents and all my relations somehow live on in their own right as in their consciousness. Meanwhile, instead of dreaming what I might do in a next life, I feel as though each place I have lived has in a single lifetime given me the adventure, the experience and the learning and teaching that go with it, of single lives in different places among different people in a lifetime…quite a teacher, a series of adventures, a privilege. As to immortality, I expect my name and some writings to appear for a while after I die—already do—and when that passes, hope that the blessings and learning I’ve passed on, toward making peace out of conflict, richness out of diversity, will pass on under names and practices to come. In that sense, in relations I have lived and learned, my life and sense of value I have received, and the safety and security of enduring relations, remains immense. Will my consciousness return in another human being, and if so will my memories be loaded in a single being? That comes up against my agnosticism, but I don’t expect to suffer in any hell, and leaves me to recognize what a wealth of experience, love, friendship and learning life has already, long since, brought me. What a privilege my lives have been, and the relationships I’ve enjoyed. Most of all, I’d like my neighbors, fellow singers, schoolmates and new friends to know what a pleasure it has been to live back home in Central Ohio, and what a wonderful community Rush Creek Village remains to live in. Come next September, Jill and I will have room for visitors in Durango…come on by.
I can’t help thinking these thoughts just as I have managed to pass my eye test and renew my Ohio Driver’s License for the last time, as my 73rd birthday approaches. Love and peace, hal