If you will entertain, for a moment, the idea that when we die, our souls carry forward to someone else who is being born, then we can use Wikipedia to figure out which famous people you probably share a soul with.
For example, we were born in 1981. In other words, someone died in 1981 and passed their soul on to us. According to Wikipedia, people who died in 1981 include Bill Haley (the rock & roller), Joe Louis (the boxer), Bobby Sands (the Irish hunger strike activist), and Bob Marley. Right away we feel empathy with Bill Haley. He was a pale white guy who loved to boogie, but his dance moves were primitive, and his sense of fashion was rather absurd. That sounds like us. We’ll presume that in a previous life we were Bill Haley, and at some point in 1981 his soul migrated to our body.
Taking this a step further, we’ll see who died in 1925, the year Bill Haley was born. 1925 gives us plenty of choices. Sun Yat-sen (co-founder of the Kuomintang), John Singer Sargent (the painter), Erik Satie (the composer), and William Jennings Bryan (the orator). It’s going to be a tough call, so we’ll cheat a little by looking ahead to see where each of these choices might lead us. Both Sun Yat-sen and Erik Satie were born in 1866, so if we choose one of them, we’ll be looking at 1866 next. But with the possible exceptions of Thomas Love Peacock (great name) and George Everest (who lent his name to the mountain), nobody who died 1866 seems to share a soul with us. So we’ll forget about Sun Yat-sen and Erik Satie for the moment. John Singer Sargent would lead us to 1856, and nobody who died in that year appeals to us, either. William Jennings Bryan was born in 1860, and he would lead us to Charles Goodyear or Arthur Schopenhauer. But you know what? We’re going with a dark horse candidate for this one. In 1925, the year Bill Haley was born, a man called Pancho Villa died. His real name was Francisco Guilledo. He was a World Flyweight boxing champion known as “the greatest Asian boxing fighter in history.” Somehow we can identify with that. Before we were Bill Haley, we were Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo.
Pancho Villa brings us to 1901, the year Queen Victoria, Giuseppe Verdi, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and William McKinley died. All fantastic people, but we’re instantly drawn to Queen Victoria and Toulouse-Lautrec. It would be fun to choose Queen Victoria, especially since women are drastically under-represented among Wikipedia’s entries for famous people in history. But we really love Toulouse-Lautrec. If we go with him, our next choice will be between Jeb Stuart, the Confederate general, and Nathanial Hawthorne. So we’ll go with Toulouse-Lautrec, followed by Nathanial Hawthorne.
Anyway, you get the idea. If we assume that souls migrate from one person to another in the year of the body’s death/birth, then our past lives on Wikipedia, going back as far as 1491, are as follows.
The Fiction Advocate (now this soul has reached its apotheosis)
Who did you used to be?