My last class with my Miltonist student yesterday – her oral exam is on Tuesday morning. We talked for an hour and a bit about literature, then she tempted me to stay for lunch with her family (three small children, all boys, a genial & bespectacled scientist husband, and the husband´s elderly but hale parents). Her mother- & father-in-law would, i guess, have been in their late teens the last time i died; like me, they are, in a sense, survivors of the old world – it´s just that my body is about 40 years younger.

i have no real problems with past life memories, even with having been so different – long before i began to remember, i had come to see the psyche as a galaxy of possibilities – and this not as a wild chaos but rather as a structure so fundamental as to be capable of a thousand different shapes, different desires and conjurations, differently difficult loves. Perhaps this conscious attitude enabled the remembering, as have the objective bridges between lives.

i am, however, perturbed to think i could meet people i had known then. i know of three survivors, all old now, who were young bloods when i died; it´s unlikely our paths will cross, however, since we weren´t exactly close. i have met one person from that life, about 13 years ago, “by chance, as we say in Middle Earth”; when i died she was a young woman; when i met her as Elberry she was nearly at the end of her long life, and i was about 20. It was a peculiar reversal of our old relationship, where i had been a terrible old Prospero, and she my young & (by me at least) impressionable friend. To meet her again – she now an old woman full of honours & her own wisdom, and i about 20 and knowing almost nothing about my self or my world, really a helpless book-creature – that i find strangely unsettling, though the meeting itself was sunny and friendly. Perhaps i am unsettled because such people remember me as i was in that life; so i have no problem with knowing a reincarnated brother & two sisters from that life – for they remember nothing, either of themselves or of me. But it is disconcerting to be known.

i arranged to meet my Miltonist after her oral exam. i hope we can continue to meet as friends (i.e. not for money), and she can help me with my German. She tried to persuade me to get a teaching post at the university, but while i enjoy talking about literature i seem incompatible with academia. Even in the welcome death throes of the abominable Literary Theory, the atmosphere of academia is inimical to this smelly old dog. My Miltonist told me another student doesn´t even read the original books – she just reads secondary texts, academic drivel, and pieces together a collage of quotations and paraphrases by way of an essay. i think this was quite common at my alma mater, where the average English undergraduate regarded reading with contempt and horror and terror. Why would anyone want to teach such lamentable and soul-beshitten folk? Kill them, yes; teach them, no.

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