Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Note About Karma

Source: Christy Knight
If someone does something that is a wonderful act of kindness for no reason other than it seems right at the time, does that person receive good karma?

And, conversely, if another person does harm, an act of "douchebaggery," simply because they are themselves a plastic bag fitted with a nozzle and they enjoy the drama that results - will that person receive bad karma?

It's almost unbearable to think that they will not, in the end, reap the opposite rewards of their opposite acts. In the ongoing cycle of the universe, does one action affect another and another, to create a sort of house of cards or domino falldown, each tile tipping against another and another?

"To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions." - Newton

This law of motion seems to support the concept of karma in a way that agrees with physics - at some point, a deed, whether good or bad, will start something else to occur. But will that reaction come back to haunt (or to favor) the person who started it all?

In Shakespearian tragedy, all of the story comes from one terrible act, caused by the hero's fatal flaw. After Macbeth kills the king, the murder causes more murder until the country is at war. It's as though the fatal flaw is a hideous spider in a web, effecting "equal and opposite reactions" from plucking one sticky string.

Woody Allen's view is quite different. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors," the central figure gets away with murder, and the good guy who follows his heart and passions gets nothing. There is no karma in that movie.

And to me, that just seems wrong. There must be karma. A bad act reaps evil; a good one delivers happiness.

Does that karma come from a beautiful, vengeful goddess, wielding lightning and slinging metaphysical swords? 

Maybe. But how much more interesting would it be if that Karmic goddess lived inside our bodies, and we exacted karmic vengeance or rewards on ourselves. An act of good, even though it is unseen and unrewarded, creates a point of light within our souls, where it grows and interacts with everything we are - memories, dreams, creation.

An act of evil, no matter how much the person may defend it, creates a point of darkness which also grows within. JK Rowling used this brilliantly in creating Voldemort's character - his evil came from his own evil deeds, and each horrible act warped the character further until, at last, he was no longer even human.

So, I have to conclude that there is karma, and that is a satisfying ending. The punishments and rewards are not immediate or tangible, but they exist. Yes, indeed - they exist.


Alison DeLuca said...

And just as I wrote this post, I saw a news article that says there is an actual dark patch in the brains of killers and rapists: "Dr. Gerhard Roth, a neurologist and professor at the University of Bremen, told London's Daily Mail that he discovered a dark mass near the front of the brain in scans of people with criminal records." (Whether this is actually true or not is, of course, not certain.)


Hart Johnson said...

I think in the case of an intact conscience, that to some degree what you're suggesting is true. When you do good, you FEEL good, you notice good, so in a way, regardless of the rest of the world, you DRAW good to you (even if it is partially a trick of the brain). Same in the reverse. The trouble is, through repeated squashing of the negative response, I think people can sort of get immune to being rotten, and some people seem to be conscience challenged, either because of brain stuff (in the actual socio and psychopathologies) or because or environmentally created disfunction.

Unknown said...

I think difficulty arises when one starts assigning an emotional respinse like "good" or "bad" to events. It gets pretty subjective. How do we truly know the ramifications of any act? It may play out differently in the future...
For example, my father in law, made some "bad" choices, experienced much "bad" karma in his life due to a myriad of reasons I won't go into, but because of his failures,
and subsequent leavings and movings, I met my husband and my children exist today.
I think people have long tried to understand why bad things happen--to good and bad people alike. I haven't found any answer yet. History (and the current moment)is filled with ne'er-do-wells doing quite well, thank you very much, while some of us--despite our best intentions, have a tough road to hoe.
my .02.
~Just Jill

Alison DeLuca said...

Jill, that's very intriguing. First I'm so sorry that your father in law went through that, but what a triumph that something wonderful came out of it. Thanks so much for sharing this - it all goes to show that evil or "badness" is really complex. Might have to extend this series!

LibraryGirl said...

This is a wonderful, thought provoking post Alison.

I can't remember where I read it but I remember seeing something about how we can't know for certain if an event or action will have a positive or negative outcome while we are in it but only later can we assess the actual impact it had. Something we view as negative at the time may in fact lead us to something positive or help us to avoid something that could have been far worse.

Definitely one of those complex life issues that can't be summed up with a single sentence :-)