a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Welcome back to the Earth Incarnation Station, old friend. My record here says you’re eligible for a new model. I’ll be able to help you with that right away, but first we have to cover the basics and get an updated waiver on file for you. You know: obviate our liability—since, well, almost everything is out of our hands once we get you back down there. I’m sure you understand.
Okay, first off, to give your fully informed consent, you’re going to need quite a bit of information—given how long it’s been since you’ve been in circulation, thanks to some, ahem, transgressions during your last embodiment.
Touchy subject? Apologies.
Yes, friend, I understand that you were just doing as you were told. Many atrocities transpired during the War, but many soldiers also avoided participating in said atrocities. Perhaps this time around, you’ll be prepared to transcend such circumstances.
Um, where was I? Let’s see, yes, informed consent. Since you’ve been observing for quite some time, I assume you’re at least somewhat abreast of current happenings, but you’ll need to understand some statistics to fully appreciate the risks of incarnation on 2020 Earth. You are most likely to be born male: 49.4%, followed by female at 48.9%, followed by other at 1.7%.
What’s other? Well, it’s some combination of the two predominant human biologies. Don’t worry too much: understanding of and tolerance for all genders have greatly advanced in recent years. Besides, while it’s less than a 2% chance, it would provide many opportunities to cultivate a higher understanding of the human experience.
Moving right along: you’ll most likely be born in India at 18%, followed by China: 12%, Nigeria: 5%, Pakistan at…
Oh, the United States of America? Ha! You’re unlikely to win that lottery again, friend. Three percent.
Let me check. Your overall chance of being born in the native English speaking world is currently at 5%, but again, don’t worry. It’s often very enriching to undergo the development of consciousness within the framework of a new language. Some reports indicate that it’s almost as profound as being a different gender. Almost.
Carrying on, adjusted for birth rates by nation, respective life expectancy, and global macroeconomic forces, your projected lifetime earnings will be, in USD yes?
Yes, that’s, um, considerably less purchasing power than you had during your last go, but our latest human resources report indicates that it’s sufficient for subsistence—barring any environmental or social catastrophes—and perhaps your children can help you out?
Hmm, it says here your projected fertility rate is 2.6, but that your offspring only have a 21.1% chance of being better off financially than you, thanks to the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution. Do keep in mind that this is only a prediction—for which we accept no liability.
Next up, the environment: since your last lifetime, fully half of the trees which graced the green Earth are gone!? Wow. Sorry, these stats usually don’t catch me off guard. Surely something valuable has replaced them.
At any rate, due to pollution of the atmosphere and groundwater—there seems to be plastic everywhere—you have a 12.3% chance of being born with some sort of ailment.
Ailment? Yes, let me look into that for you. Congenital birth defects, physical deformities, predispositions for a host of mental illnesses, learning disabilities, and lifestyle diseases. The latter of which, of course, you’ll mostly be able to avoid through personal choice, barring any financial constraints which might limit your options.
I’m terribly sorry, friend. I can see how upsetting this all must be. On the bright side, at least you get to be human! Although a great deal of the advancement of our collective goals does seem to be happening during non-human incarnations… Anyway, we’ve just about covered the basics. Do keep in mind, it’s every soul’s duty to continue the evolution of both embodied life and consciousness, and we here at the E.I.S. greatly appreciate your continued commitment to our universal prerogative.
A different universe? No friend, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that, at least not now. Perhaps after several, ahem, more successful incarnations you’ll be eligible for such consideration.
No, I’m afraid the E.I.S. is fully staffed for the time being. Shall I continue?
Excellent. Now, back to the aforementioned crises. Based on your risk-adjusted life expectancy of 53 years—again, my sympathies—likeliest birthplaces, and projected social mobility, you have a 42.8% chance of facing a life-altering catastrophe as follows. War or refugee crisis: 23%. Natural disaster: 16%. Unspecified other: 3.8%.
Yes, my friend. I’ll be sure to send your comments to our data analytics department.
Lastly, for your informed consent, I’m required to read the following statement, to which you must assent if you wish to proceed with your incarnation on 2020 Earth. Your response will be added to your permanent record.
Having been informed of the likelihoods and risks of an exhaustive, but by no means comprehensive, list of possibilities, including that such living conditions might never arise under which my upcoming incarnation will contribute to the advancement of consciousness—or to my standing within this universe of souls—I hereby indemnify the Earth Incarnation Station against all future claims of damages stemming from this incarnation. Furthermore, I assert that I will do my best to tolerate the conditions of 2020 Earth such that I am able, to the best of my ability, to contribute to the advancement of consciousness in this universe, and in all universes to which my efforts might reach.
Very good, brave friend. Once more into the breach! YOLO! Hah, just kidding, you’ll be back again. Try to enjoy your time down there. And do be careful. All of us here at the Earth Incarnation Station, and across the universe, will be rooting for you.
Michael Bishop is a nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of Idaho hailing from Oahu, Hawaii. Informed by studies in psychology and philosophy, and a career in environmental work and emergency rescue, his writing often explores the reciprocal determinism between nature and humanity. His work appears in The Normal School, About Place Journal, Points In Case, and Honolulu Civil Beat. He has been awarded a 2021 Fulbright grant for creative writing in New Zealand. He is an avid explorer of both wilderness and consciousness alike.