Disclaimer- this write-up roots from the mind of an overthinker and is an over analysis of many, many scrambled thoughts. Hope you enjoy reading!
“Jo khatm ho kisi jagah, ye aisa silsila nahi”
We are different versions of ourselves to different people. Are we the kind of person who would stay? Or are we the kind of person who would leave? What kind of person am I? These small but crisis-creating questions dawned upon me while watching Celine Song’s directorial debut movie- Past Lives.
Unlike every other typical love story, Past Lives does not give into the expectations and predictions of the audience, instead it gives a very true and grounded picture of reality. To put it in a nutshell, Past Lives is a story about a life left behind and what-could-have-been.
The movie begins with its very own take on the age-old “three people walk into a bar” joke. We see three people sitting at a dimly lit bar- a man and a woman of Asian descent engaged in conversation and the third person, a white man, sits in silence, observing them intently. While we do not get to hear the conversation going on at the bar, we instead hear a voice-over of people watching and trying to guess the equation between the three people- are the Asian duo a couple, or are they siblings? Or is the white man the Asian woman’s boyfriend? Over the course of the movie, we find out the complex answers to these simple assumptions.
We are introduced to the concept and belief of “In-Yun” in the movie-
“There is a word in Korean. In-Yun. It means “providence” or “fate”. But it’s specifically about relationships between people. I think it comes from Buddhism and reincarnation. It’s an In-Yun if two strangers even walk by each other in the street and their clothes accidentally brush. Because it means there must have been something between them in their past lives. If two people get married, they say it’s because there have been 8,000 layers of In-Yun, over 8,000 lifetimes.”
Like the concept of punarjanma and karma in Hinduism- in Korean Buddhism, the term ‘in’ (因) denotes “direct cause”, while ‘yeon’ (緣) is “indirect cause”, which denotes the circumstances that enable an outcome. Combined, in and yeon explain why specific beings meet at specific places and times.
Parallel beliefs of past lives and the eternal lifetime of a soul can be seen in various other regions and countries all over the world. Across different versions of almost identical concepts, we are left to determine what suits our reality the best.
It’s the magic these concepts hold, the endless loop which goes on forever- comforting the lost longings of all. They give hope of “maybe, in another life.” And isn’t that what we all have craved for at least once in our lifetimes? That the capacity of human relationships is boundless.
“Do you ever wonder why mortals seek love so fervently?” asks Hermes, filling his goblet with more of Dionysus’ best wine. Dionysus is thinking of Ariadne again as he smiles sadly, “They walk through life only two steps ahead of death. Imagine what it must be like to know you are finite. You would constantly seek the beauty of love too, if you knew you were doomed. If you knew how your book ends, wouldn’t you want to fill it with beautiful things like love, too?”
-Nikita Gill, Excerpt from Maidens, Myths and Monsters
To not spoil anything further from the movie, I would strongly urge you to watch it and come up with your own interpretations. Afterall, we’re all products of our experiences, they shape us and our thoughts. Each experience is unique.
Throughout the film, one can’t help but ponder over the “what if-ness” of life. The heavy weight of words left unsaid, a lost attempt at a perfect confession, a missed opportunity, a failed simple hello, an avoided conversation, a life-changing moment slipped at the palm of one’s hand and so, so many instances of could haves, should haves, and would haves.
Maybe the cornerstone in all our lives is the existence of mere possibilities and that the potential one holds for them stretches beyond one lifetime. What if? How? When? If at all? Was it meant to be? All these questions may seem answerable but actually hold the weight of all the moments and all the people that slipped by.
Reflecting and contemplating over lost opportunities is the most human thing to do. However, life goes on and what could have been otherwise will always just be a possibility in our memory- at least in this lifetime.
Past lives can be compared to a semi colon (;). Just as semi colons are used to denote a significant pause but not a complete end, past lives too are significant pauses and not a complete end to what existed between two entities. Semi colons join two different yet somehow related sentences to each other- exactly how past lives bring two separate but somehow connected entities together in one lifetime or another. What may seem like a full stop to us might just turn out to be a semi colon.
It is also beautiful how different versions of ourselves can be treated as a past life too. Who we were at a certain moment in time, the decisions we took and how our choices right now or in the future may never ever be remotely close to our choices back then. It is fascinating how we remember ourselves yet somehow still forget how to be what we remember.
It is not just by chance that we exist at the same time as the ones around, especially out of all the timelines we could have existed in otherwise. We have been privileged enough to meet each other in this vast universe, build relationships, love, laugh, cry and thrive in each other’s company. And if at all in the grand scheme of all things, it was past life that brought us together, here and now- grateful would just begin to describe it.
I know I believe in the existence of a greater power, as its no co-incidence that we are in the presence of the people we have come to love and care about right now. We passed through different eras of human history to the lifetime that we exist in right now; to have existed as different entities, who were close yet still far apart, in a past life and maybe in another life as one- its intriguing, isn’t it? Were we really someone to each other? And if we were something to each other, was it something that mattered? Every moment, every meeting, every interaction, every person we care about, every person we love – is all of it planned out already? And even if it is planned out, does one even have control over what happens to them?
Anyway, who am I to say any of this? This might just be a past life (;) for me as well;
This article has been written by Ipsita Balodi (3rd Year).