I'm guessing that "remembering" past lives is a way to enjoy more life than you have been allotted. More and different. Once you feel the slightest tingle of the body's long downhill slide, once you realize you are too old, with too many obligations, to move to Scotland to learn to play the drum and develop a passable brogue, once you are past the age of admittance into the Peace Corps, once you realize the window of opportunity to become an Olympic ski jumper or a travel writer has closed, and you hear this idea that you may have lived lives much more exciting and glamorous, it must be very tempting to believe.
The trouble with past lives is that most have been lived before indoor plumbing, central heating, modern feminine hygiene products, and the perfection of chocolate.
However, if I had lived past lives these are the ones I would have liked to live:
European royalty before that ugly head-lopping-off period. Aside from the funk created by the twice-yearly bath (which seems to dog most romantically historical times), this seems to be good living. Nice clothes, decent meals, sitting for portraits, dancing courtly dances, wearing silly wigs...not bad. Maybe the Austrian court during the Mozart period, but only if he really giggled like Tom Hulce.
Scottish castle dweller some time between one horde or the other showing up to claim it for themselves. Everybody wanted Scotland because everybody talked so adorably. I would just want to make sure I was rich enough to afford plenty of warm clothes and firewood. And I would want my own sheep.
Yes, royalty. I'm afraid royalty was where it was at, pre-industrial revolution. Everybody else had it pretty crap. Everybody else was lucky to be less hungry, filthy and disease-ridden than their dead neighbor.
Maybe Lincoln's secretary. He doesn't get killed or stabbed or anything does he? I've never thought of what it would be like to be a dude, but to sit in on Lincoln's administration, I would consider it. Mary Todd Lincoln is definitely out. I'm not keen on either shopping or mourning.
I would kind of (kind of) like to be a pioneer, if only to have acres and acres of primeval Oregon wilderness to myself. It must have been awesome. And really, really difficult. But imagine, after crossing the mountains and deserts, finally getting to stick your flag (okay, your walking stick with your last remaining scrap of calico drooping from it) into an enormous piece of gorgeous land overlooking the Pacific, and saying "MINE!" Sorry, Chinook Indians. Dammit, I just ruined my past life.
Oh, wait. I've got it. A pre-Captain Cook Hawaiian Wahini. Tropical breezes. Dancing the hula (I can still do a passable hula from lessons I took as a kid in Vernonia - don't ask, long story), eating tropical food, swimming in tropical seas and trying to get fat, cause that's what all the fellas were into. Oh, bingo.
Those are the memories I'd like to have. What about you?