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What’s the earliest life memory you have? Elementary school? Toddling around the house or apartment? Birth? How about pre-birth? Some people can describe the situation of their birth in accurate detail. Some privately describe thoughts and conditions before that, hoping no one thinks they’ve gone mad. The trick is to validate those memories scientifically. The authors Elizabeth Carman and Neil Carman attempt to do just that in their book COSMIC CRADLE: Spiritual Dimensions of Life before Birth. They scour the opinions of global ancients as well as modern research and 150 interviews. Pre-birth cognition? Impossible? Perhaps. And perhaps believing it’s impossible would prevent you from considering the material.
What would be the point of knowing what a baby could experience before birth, anyway? The Carmans suggest—without actually preaching since they present multiple points of view on the subject—that therein may lie clues as to the purpose that brings people to living. You might have chosen a goal for yourself. You might have chosen the details of your life and death—details you promptly forgot when you were born. You might have negotiated with your birth parents. Have you ever asked yourself what you’re supposed to be doing? What’s the meaning of life? People are said to live longer when they have a strong sense of purpose. So, if we don’t accept that babies can exhibit cognition before conception and after death, where do we find purpose?
If you examine popular culture today, you might conclude that modern humans live to succeed—success often defined as gaining power, recognition, and wealth. Recently, certain Americans have been accused of abandoning empathy and ethics for influence. According to the perspectives given to the Carmans, humans feel far more satisfaction and joy from working together and belonging than they do from advantages won from conflict or domination. Humans may be more than biology maintaining population or evidence of religious dictates. What might we once have known that we forgot?
The fictional film TÁR showcases a wildly successful woman Lydia Tár (played by Cate Blanchett) who began life as Linda. She worked hard and long to develop her talents so she could become an outstanding orchestral conductor. She greased her path by manipulating others, using even her lovers to serve her desires and ambitions. Less leader than dictator, she ran a tight ship unconcerned with the damage she was wreaking. But coercion is not the same as loyalty, and one day her kingdom turned on her. Kindness had become foreign to her, as it has to many of us—both now and in history. Under what circumstances do we accept the mass murders of children, the banning of written wisdom, or the drowning of families in distress? What pursuits do we cherish that honor beauty, love, and kindness above all else? What are we doing on earth, anyway?