I've been thinking about that sentiment for a couple of days now—it's on my mind—“You can't take it with you, but you should hide it before you go in case you can come back and get it.” That, for some reason, seems to make more sense to me than it sounds like. I don't mean literally burying a cache of gold, so that when you, hopefully, come back, you dig it up and spend it. You don't know when or what kind of world you're coming back into. Maybe gold will be worth nothing, and old cigarette butts will be the prime currency. So the question is, what could you leave behind when you die that could benefit you if you return to the world? You have to remember that you may not remember anything of your previous life when you get back—so what you leave would be best if it's something that benefits everyone. So, like, to really oversimplify things, Andrew Carnegie might return to the world and be delighted to be able to check books out from one of the many Carnegie free libraries. Essentially this idea of burying something that you can't take with you so you can come back and get it later is kind of a Westernized materialistic version of karma. Of course, you're missing the point if you contribute to the world only because you want to benefit personally somewhere down the line—but maybe that idea—only doing things that we can benefit from in some way—is so ingrained in us that we may well not be able to shake it.
There's one other way of looking at the whole thing that began to intrigue me when I started thinking about this whole subject. That is the idea of doing art—the compulsion to do art of some kind that some people seem to have—and it must be a compulsion, because it's not encouraged or rewarded—could be attributed to this theory—that in a past life or existence on Earth (or elsewhere), the artist was inspired by some form of art above all other experiences in their life—and now returning to the Earth will struggle to produce something that, upon returning once more, can inspire or sustain or console him in some indescribable way.
The whole world could be explained this way—maybe Bill Gates, in a past life, had to type love letters to a distant romance, and couldn't figure out the margins and such. Perhaps the inventor of the photocopier was Bartleby the Scrivener in a previous existence. Think about Picasso coming back to the world that he's changed. There's no reason for Heaven or Hell—Heaven and Hell are here, and satisfyingly complex to suit me. The developers of the motion picture can marvel at the high-tech theaters everywhere, but may have to suffer a bit through bad movies. The inventor of the automobile (who in a previous incarnation had a bad relationship with horses) now finds himself in a world where it's easy to get around, but ultimately is a tragic, hellish nightmare that has deteriorated well beyond the most pessimistic, morbid imagination of any warped science fiction writer.
Me—I'm pretty lucky, pretty well-adjusted. I'm not working on any invention, and art looks like a silly bad habit to me. Sure, in a future world maybe we'll have free or at least affordable therapy, but in the meantime I write in this notebook and it works okay, I guess. The only real compulsion I have is to remove lobsters from the sea and place them into a tank of boiling water. Maybe I was a plankton or _____ (lobsters' fave food) in a past life, or something—there's no other reason I can imagine having it in for these poor creatures.