Reincarnation Themes in Don Whitaker’s CD Gnarled Bones

There are several songs in Don Whitaker’s CD, Gnarled Bones, which deal with Reincarnation themes. As the lyricist of all the songs on the CD, I must admit I rarely miss a chance to weave Reincarnation references into my lyrics. But three songs in particular deal with Reincarnation directly.

Gnarled Bones

Gnarled Bones, for which the album is named, is a song about a man who knows for certain he has not met his soul mate in this life, but has memories of her from prior lives. He catches a glimpse of her in a sales clerk’s eye or the way a waitress’ wrist tilts. He can’t completely enunciate the sadness this memory of her causes, but he knows he carried a sadness in his gut all his life, like gnarled bones.

There’s no way for him to resolve this sadness, as this is not a life where he was meant to be with her. Perhaps this is how he chose to refine his soul in this present life – by learning how to live with such an emptiness. And in the song’s chorus, he concludes he’s ‘a better man for the journey.’

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Variations On Emily

Variations On Emily, a song where I used lines from Emily Dickinson’s public domain pieces, then answer with lines of my own. Concerning Reincarnation, I’ve never come across any documents where Emily discussed her own belief in it, but I’ve often contemplated her last written sentences from her death bed, a short note to relatives: “Little cousins, Called Back.” She also instructed the words “Called Back” be carved on her grave stone. Now where this is a favorite saying of 19th century Christians, I’ve always entertained the reincarnational hope how if one were called back, it surely means you were there to begin with, before this life.

Canterbury Meditations,

Canterbury Meditations, This song uses the trope of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to muse about the nature of Reincarnation, how we’re all ‘rocks in the rock polisher’ of life. It follows the struggles of four of Chaucer’s characters: The Nun, The Friar, The Merchant and The Knight, including long instrumentals to give the listener spacious time to reflect upon the characters’ travails.

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Gnarled Bone Album


Where there’s no scientific proof for Reincarnation, or for any other theology for that matter, the Ian Stevenson books come the closest so far as documenting cases of Reincarnation he directly studied. But a scientist to the end, Stevenson can’t bring himself to claim he’s proven the existence of Reincarnation, although his case studies are extremely compelling.

For any religious belief, it requires a faith on the part of the individual, rather than scientific proof, as no religion offers such proof. For myself, I came to Reincarnation through my 40 years of writing serious poetry. Those of us committed to this art, know poetry is a highly intuitive endeavor, and the more the poet disengages the conscious mind, the better the poem will flow in to the poet. Many years ago I became aware of what was flowing in often concerned the ‘circularity of the soul.’ And this led me to seek literature on Reincarnation. Since I already possessed a firm belief in poetry, it became a short journey to embrace Reincarnation.

Where I don’t recommend all individuals begin a regimen of poetry, I do believe it’s incumbent on all individuals to seek their own answers or faiths. As I wrote in a song “The Secret of Life” by one of our other artists, Joan in the Fires, if you search with a good heart, the answer will eventually pop up and shake hands with you. The answer always comes in the long, sincere search.

history of souls second edition

history of souls by Ward Kelley.

Author, poet, and lyricist Ward Kelley is now offering a second version of "history of souls". This book offers poetry that encompasses a number of themes:

Magical realism: Literature that looks at fables, myths, and allegory in the rational world.

Reincarnation: The philosophical and/or religious concept that the soul or spirit, after death, can begin a new life in a new body to learn new experiences and gain knowledge.

Metaphysics: A traditional branch of philosophy concerned with nature of being and the world that surrounds it.

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