Life is mysterious. I suppose if you have a straight biological view of life, you would disagree-- it's just cells and chemistry. But if you try to explain some of the facets of human personality, it gets far more complex.
Western culture has a religion which it finds acceptable and that for the most part has not included reincarnation unless the person is into Hindu, Eastern, or metaphysical thinking. Western philosophy, regarding an afterlife, is more about heaven, hell or nothing as an atheist would believe.
But is there something more? If there is not, how do you explain the above stories? For that matter how do you explain someone like Mozart or children some would say were bad seeds from birth? If it's reincarnation, what can we do about it? What should we do?
Besides our western thinking regarding the afterlife, we add to it a belief that only western medicine can treat illnesses. It's part of an exceptionalism myth. Cut people open or give them a pill and it's solved. Or if it is not, it was never possible to be solved.
So bringing together questions of life mystery into our recent trip to John Day, Oregon, there is Doc Hay whose life is explored in the Kam Wah Chung Museum. There are two parts to this museum and its exploration of the past. One a building where there are artifacts and information about a Chinese doctor who served the people of John Day and his businessman partner. The other is the home and business where Doc treated patients, had his apothecary, took in refugees, and lived. It has been kept exactly as it was when he died.
Ing Hay (Wu Yunian) was the Chinese doctor (PBS documentary on his life) who with his life partner, Lung On, established a successful business where Doc treated patients as well as sold nostrums. Lung created a business empire that funded Doc doing this for those who could not afford such care. When many of the Chinese left the John Day area with the petering out of the mines, Doc and Leon (Liang Guanying, also known as Leon) stayed on until their deaths in a community that had come to love them.
When we stopped, I was interested in learning more about the Chinese in John Day around 1865-68 because of my two historical books. The Chinese were an important part of this region's history as they had come for the gold mining. Mostly the men but a few women. There were heroes and villains in the mix even within the Chinese community. Pretty much though the prejudice in the area made it very hard on them as they were often threatened or killed. Even twenty years later, when Doc Hay began to practice, the original door to his home reveals bullet holes in it.
Originally I didn't think I'd care to take the tour because he had arrived later than the setting for my two books, but then this character and his business partner fascinated me for how they put to the lie so many of our stereotypes. What amazed me is-- with the life he led, the information in his home which was left as though he had just stepped out of it-- why had I never heard of him? He was the kind of character like Joaquin (Cincinnatus) Miller who people like me, interested in history, usually know quite a lot about based on their unique lives but I had never heard of Doc Hay before this trip.
If you are ever in John Day, I very much recommend you stop at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site and take the tour to get a taste of another lifetime and a doctor of Chinese medicine who had pretty phenomenal results for his patients leading to them coming from all around to be treated with his nostrums and methods. To me, his story is part of the mystery of life for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to wonder.
They don't allow photos in the home to protect the artifacts, but they did allow the phone cam with no flash. You enter into the treatment room where a patient would have sat on the chair for Doc to feel their pulse, listen to their symptoms and then find a diagnosis of what he felt would help from the room behind a counter filled with nostrums as though ready to be used. Patients claimed you could count on a bitter taste but also they believed they worked. They came from all around and he stirred up some resentment from 'proper' doctors of western medicine (which in those days had a lot less options than today) who tried to put him out of practice without a 'proper' license but they were never successful.
Doc's spartan bedroom was off to one side.
You proceed through the house and find a kitchen and a space behind with bunks for refugees to live for a time. Lung On's bedroom was added on further back.
For the time of the tour, it really does feel you are stepping back in time and sharing for a moment what it must have been like for those who lived within these walls. When a space is left untouched, as this one was, it has a very different feel to it when you enter.