I was talking with a friend of mine a few days ago. The conversation turned to the subject of karma. I’m not especially religious but I do consider myself spiritual, so I tend to believe there is something to this karma thing.
For those who don’t know what karma is, I’ll boil it down to what I think it means. Karma is the belief that your actions leads to consequences. The nature of the consequences depends on the type of the actions. Good actions will lead to good consequences and bad actions will lead to bad consequences.
Some people view karma like a bank account. If you do more good deeds than bad, then you shall be rewarded for you actions. I’m not sure if I view that way, because it seems too business-like, but I certainly like the part about being rewarded for good deeds.
I like the concept of karma because it essentially means you’ll be rewarded for living a “good and honest” life. Yeah, I know Christianity has the concept of heaven and hell, but karma just seems more simplistic in its understanding. There’s no other baggage to worry about.
When I was twelve-years old, I had an epiphany, well, as much of an epiphany as you can have when you’re in grade seven. I realized that my grade seven class represented a model or simulation of society. Out of the 30 or so students in my class, I saw the elements of people that made up a society. You had the bully who had anger management problems. You had the people that only sought popularity. You had the people that were geniuses. You had the people that were quiet and reserved. The list went on.
These people would grow up to be fully-involved members of society, and whatever strengths and weaknesses they had now, they would take with them into adulthood. How many of my classmates would turn into assholes in adulthood? How many of them would turn into negative people? Dishonest people? Mean people? People without scruples?
I didn’t have an answer back then, but I knew it wouldn’t be all of them. Where did I fit in to all of this? What type of person would I represent in society? What I did know was that I’d better start acting like the person I wanted to be when I was an adult, not later, but now. That didn’t mean I decided to act all mature and stuff. I knew I was still a kid and stuff.
What I did decide was that having a good moral compass was a good thing. That being good, rather than bad was important. I knew that if I only had one chance at living this life, I’d do it right. I’d do my best to be a good guy in society.
Of course some people don’t need to decide these things. Some people automatically are this way. To be honest, I acted the same way before and after the day I made this decision. Perhaps decision is the wrong word for it. I “realized” why it was important for me to live my life that way.
Years later, I still hold onto those same beliefs. And over the years, I’ve been labelled a “nice guy”. Over the years, I like to think I’ve injected some good karma into the world. I like to think that when people interact with me, I’ve been a positive in their life rather than a negative.
Recently, though, I’m beginning to question this karma thing. Despite the way I’ve lived my life and the good moral center I think I have, I’m increasingly seeing people get rewarded in life for things that seem to come to them randomly. These rewards that I talk about preclude any hard work of course. My friend Sarah just got her Ph.D and she deserves it. Those type of things have nothing to do with karma.
What I’m talking about is random windfalls that seem to come out of nowhere. These people receive an embarassment of riches when it comes to life. Success that seems to come randomly without any effort on their part (or hardly any effort). I have no idea what these people’s karma is like, maybe they have a lot of good karma. Who knows? What I do know is that they can’t have lived their lives much differently than mine. Did they rescue an orphanage that I didn’t know about? Why do they deserve all of this?
It appears to me that despite the way I’ve lived my life, I have yet to see this good karma come back to me. My friend calls it “cashing in”. It’s a terrible way to state it, but it makes my point.
I am going through this life in a neutral state, neither receiving good nor bad windfalls. I am somewhat dismayed by this.
To attempt to explain it, I have come up with a few theories.
First, karma is supposed to span lifetimes, if you believe in re-incarnation. I maybe making up for some horrible things in another lifetime. This is why I don’t get the breaks that some other people do. “Cashing in” will have to come in another life, if at all.
Second, I have a immense amount of good karma, and the “cashing in” will come later in this life, it’s just still building up. The payoff will be large. I’ll get the job I want or I’ll marry the woman of my dreams.
Third, karma does not exist. No matter how good I live my life, it isn’t worth a damn. There is no payoff. I can rob a bank and the next day when I’m buying a new DVD player, I’ll meet this beautiful woman outside the store. I can decide not to let an old lady have a seat on the bus and I’ll win the lottery the next week.
At the end of this conversation with my friend, I became disillusioned. Maybe I should stop caring, stop living life the way I have. It would be easier not to care, not to be good, to be aloof.
I thought about it for a minute and decided I can’t change who I am. The way I live my life defines me. What else would I do? Be an asshole?
In the end, I accept (though I may not like it) that I can do a million good deeds and live a good life and I won’t receive any of that good karma back. I can’t live my life any other way.
I’m wondering how others view karma, or if you believe in it all. How do you deal with the injustices of life?