Sunday, October 14, 2007

Do you believe in Karma?

Dear Anonymous,

In response to a heartfelt blog I wrote about a tough year (actually 3 tough years) you asked me if my conscience was clear and if I believe in karma. It’s a dicey question to answer since there are so many interpretations offered of the concept. A little like asking someone if they believe in a higher power.

If I were asked that question, for example, I would need someone to define their terms. I do not believe in an old man with a beard who punishes and judges and favors one ball team over another. While I respect those who do believe in that guy, he is troubling to me because he strips us of our power AND our responsibility while being less than forgiving of our very human-ness, insisting on exacting some kind of payment for our transgressions. This god leaves us little responsibility yet all the blame.

I do believe in a higher power, however. I think of it as a hovering question mark – a mysterious force that puts our tiny lives into perspective – players strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage, etc. – a power that occasionally inhabits Wayne Shorter, Dustin Hoffman – that used to flow through Michael Jordan. An awe-inspiring wonder we feel when looking at a mountain, listening to the ocean, nursing a baby. God is in all of this and more. The homeless man on the corner is god, Stephen Colbert( on his good nights) is god and yes, even you Anonymous – though I do worry that you might have a bit of that old testament vengeful god in you.

But I digress. In order to believe in Karma in the traditional sense I would need to believe in reincarnation and I’m still not sure I do. I have trouble with inherited Karma – even though I know that in a larger sense it exists in things like fetal alcohol syndrome. I wonder if I need to pay for the sins of my ancestors or my actions in another life. I’m not sure I like that notion enough to take that leap of faith. I’m assuming you were referring to a more immediate and surgically precise Karma, but again, you didn’t define your terms.

I do believe in a Karmic bank account from which we should not withdraw more than we have deposited. I do believe we can be the architects of our own downfall ( to paraphrase Trail of Tears) to some extent. I believe we should earnestly strive for right speech, right thinking and right intention and that we should forgive ourselves when we fall short of that goal. I think we can make ourselves and others close to us sad or sick if we are not conscious of the impact of our actions.

I think you were probably asking me a rhetorical question. Did you want to know if I had ever hurt anyone? Absolutely. Who hasn’t? Did I mean to? Almost always the answer is no. Does that matter to the person who was hurt? Probably not. However, I don’t think it follows that I should be “punished” with broken bones, ( still a bother) a broken heart (healing nicely) and persistent health issues and I want no part of a philosophy that would have it so….or a man who would wish it upon me – even just a little.

My understanding of Karma is that it is not fixed. We can learn from our mistakes and remedy our wrongs to alter our future destiny. I start by forgiving you, whoever you are, for your comment, which I’m sure you didn’t intend to be mean.

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