Real Estate & Reincarnation

Few experiences are as disorienting as the first day spent in a new home. The details of each room present themselves forcefully to your senses. You feel as something tangible the space between the walls, between floor and ceiling, inside every cupboard and closet. But day by day your eye for novelty fades, and after a month or two you begin to forget what it was like ever to have lived anyplace else.

I suppose reincarnation (which I don’t believe in) must be like this. You are born into a new body and the shock of the experience makes you alive to its every detail. You acquaint yourself with its characteristics, its limitations and possibilities, and contrast it favorably or unfavorably with your last body. As time passes, however, you come to assume your situation so completely that you forget you ever inhabited another body at all. The old life is dissolved in the new.

Older houses like ours have their own recurring cycles of birth and death. The process, however, is the inverse of what we describe when we talk about reincarnation. Rather than a single soul transmigrating from one body to the next, a home retains its physical form but exchanges one soul for another. These souls are the families and individuals that at one time or another lived there. As a new family settles in, the body of the house slowly forgets the other soul that animated it before.


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