Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin' to do
It's up to you, yeah you
Instant Karma, John Lennon
To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and act in opposite directions.
Third Law of Motion, Sir Issac Newton
There's a debate going on on another blog regarding karma. I've learned the hard way (a characteristic of humans that separates us from animals and inanimate objects) not to engage in debates on other people's blogs. Generally debates via blog comments lack civilized rules and end up with people angrily typing in all caps: THAT'S BULL SHIT as their rebuttal (very like Penn and Teller...see yesterday's entry regarding white noise).
As with anyone who has gone through puberty, I've gone through various phases of searching for truth in my life. This has involved at varying degrees religion, astrology, love, lust, obsession, crystals, tarot cards, the I-Ching, chanting, bongs, Carlos Casteneda, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Robbins, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, carnival beads in New Orleans, Pink Floyd, organic mushrooms, Elvis, playing Beatles records backwards, Reno and Quantum Physics.
First, I don't claim to have discovered "the truth." I have learned to distrust those who say they have discovered the truth (if you meet the Buddah by the side of the road, kill him). I also learned that, after you turn forty, it is pretty much hard to muster up enthusiasm for "the truth." I mean, I can deal with "a truth" once in awhile, but not "the truth." I am pretty much content these days to sit in the ol' Barcalounger and watch "Beauty and the Geek."
This is not to say that I don't have an opinion about philosophical things. I think I've gleaned what I think were the kernals out of the many truths out there and formulated my own truth. Of course the Catch 22 of formulating your own truth is this little thing called "self-delusion." But I also think that self-delusion has it's place in our lives. It allows us to look in the mirror each day and tell ourselves we haven't changed a bit and still keep a straight face.
My self-deluded mutation of many truths includes the premise that there are no absolutes. I don't believe there is a "one truth" or "one path" or "one religion." Conversely, I also don't believe that you can thumb your nose at long-term established belief systems with an ostrich-head-in-the-hole attitude of, "I don't believe any of that horse pucky." I recall a stand-up comedian I saw once asking if there were any atheists in the audience. A couple of people in the audience raised their hands (a bad move at a comedy club). The comedian then said to them, "So, you don't believe in god, huh." They nodded. He continued, "Then you don't mind if I tell you to go to hell."
I thought that was funny and profound.
But let's talk about much misunderstood karma. Too often, people oversimplify the concept of karma and think that it simply means that we get done to us whatever we do to others. I prefer to think of karma as a long-term investment we make in our soul bank. You put a little in bit by bit and it pays out in the long term whatever you put in it. I don't think it is a matter of good and evil. People tend to apply those black and white term to everything because it simplfies our world view.
Okay, the science world pretty much accepts that energy is neither created nor can it be destroyed. And one of the laws of thermodynamics talks about every action having an equal and opposite reaction. I think karma operates like that. When you do something, you expend energy. That energy causes a reaction, either immediate or delayed.
In the Occult Glossary: A Compendium of Oriental and Theosophical Terms, G. de Purucker defines karma as:
...essentially a chain of causation, stretching back into the infinity of the past and therefore necessarily destined to stretch into the infinity of the future. It is unescapable, because it is in universal nature, which is infinite and therefore everywhere and timeless; and sooner or later the reaction will inevitably be felt by the entity which aroused it.
G. de Purucker goes on to explain that Karma is not fate. We aren't locked into a world of reward and punishment that is out of our control. Why? G. de Purucker gives the same answer the Jesuits used to give me when I asked them why evil existed. If god created everything and god was the ultimate good, it didn't make sense to me that he/she would create evil. Their answer and G. de Purucker's answer was "free will." We all have a choice. We make choices that affect our lives and those choices affect our environment which in turn affects others.
Take for instance the wood: I chose to have the trees in my backyard cut down. The evil tree service cut the trees down. I was stuck with the consequences of my decision to have the trees cut down and not picking a reputable tree service -- a shitload of wood in my backyard that I felt I'd never get rid of. All of my moping and moaning was useless until I made a choice to split the wood into more manageable pieces that someone else made a choice to buy and haul away.
That's really what karma is. Things don't just happen to us. Things that happen to us are the result of choices we make. Say we are walking down a city sidewalk and a piano falls on our head from a crane as it is being hoisted up to a second story window. I don't think this happens because we beat our dog, are a bad person and it is our just reward. The piano falls on our head because we chose to walk on that sidewalk on that day at that time and didn't look up when workmen start screaming at us to watch out. The piano also falls on our head because the mother of Sherman decided he needed piano lessons instead of the guitar and hoisting the new piano up to the window was the only way to get it into the apartment.
I make my observations about karma based on my understanding of it, not to further a debate or convince anyone that I am right or wrong. If someone reads this and takes exception to my understanding of karma, rest assured I have my rebuttal ready:
THAT'S BULL SHIT, MAN.
And I'm ready to accept the consequences of that rebuttal as well.