Cultivating Karma

Dearest Rachel –

There wasn’t much to remember about last night’s first dream, only a news item. Still, it was sufficient to take into consideration, and perhaps turn into an essay of sorts. It would seem that this fellow, whose name I can’t remember, and may never have been dropped (since it didn’t really matter – dream logic, after all), who had been notorious for bilking wealthy gentlemen with promises of improved endurance and stamina (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) had lost some sort of court case (possibly having to do with child custody after a divorce, but I’m not sure about the details, to be honest) due to it being proven, legally, that he himself was impotent.

Even as I was absorbing this information, it was occurring to me that this had to be anachronistic. After all, society has had Viagra, Cialis, and numerous other proven pharmaceutical preparations to deal with just this situation for long enough that the patents have expired, which means they’ve been around for over seventeen years. Indeed, if memory serves me correctly, they’ve been in existence since prior to the turn of the millennium. Even your dad left behind a half full bottle of those little blue pills, to my amusement and your mild disgust (I think it’s one of those cases where no child wants to think about certain things their parents do, and need to do in order to do it) – I recall being tempted to suggest that we hang onto those, just in case that ailment that visits most men over time struck me someday, but even given your tendency to keep everything (which I thought would work in my favor), you insisted I throw them out, as you noted that the bottle indicated that they had supposedly expired in 2011. At this point, it’s probably just as well – they would simply serve to mock me, much like those chocolate drops from my last birthday with you (which is a whole other story that you’re well familiar with, so I don’t need to belabor at the moment).

But back to this imaginary article about this theoretical con man, and his karmic comeuppance. And that’s where I was going with this little letter; what do we make of the concept of karma? Is it a thing? Do we believe in it? How does it work within our worldview? Or are we calling something ‘karma’ that really isn’t?

Let’s take on that last one first, mostly because English has a habit of doing just that with a lot of words. Just look up the history of the meaning of the word ‘nice,’ if you don’t believe me (but I know you do). I had to look it up to see where the word was taken from; as it descends from the Sanskrit कर्म, suggesting it’s a Hindu concept – although it seems to exist in just about all of the major Eastern religions. Taken literally, the word simply means ‘deeds,’ or works, but that’s not generally how we use it in English – if we did, we wouldn’t need the word, as we have those two and a number of other suitable synonym. Rather, it’s more a matter of the result of one’s deeds – supposedly, good things come to those who do good, and bad to those who do bad.

It’s not a concept that’s explicitly spelled out in scripture, although there is a decided cause-and-effect relationship between good versus evil deeds and one’s lot in life. God reminded the children of Israel of the blessings associated with following Him (and the curses with abandoning Him) even as they first made their way back into the Promised Land from Egypt. And on the other side of Christ, Paul reminds the church about reaping what one sows; those who are generous receive a generous reward, those who are sparing, a sparse one. But is that truly ‘karma,’ or are we, like Humpty Dumpty, making a word mean only what we want it to (although, if it’s agreed by all using the word that this is its meaning, then does that really matter)?

Considering that the karma of Hinduism appears to be (because in no way do I consider myself an expert on those beliefs) part of the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation – the good deeds in one life improve one’s lot in the next, especially when there doesn’t seeing to be a payoff for them in this present life – I’m going to have to say no. Even if we view it in terms of simply getting what we ‘deserve,’ it’s not strictly accurate, as we Christians view humanity – whether corporately or individually – as ‘deserving’ of nothing more than separation from God and all that entails (my hell-as-nuclear-fission-reaction theory). But as with sowing and reaping, we do have an understanding of cause and effect within our doctrine. If we are part of the Vine, we can and should be producing fruit, after all.

However, it’s not necessarily a quid pro quo type of situation. In fact, asking that of God is decidedly outside of our rights. We can’t say, “I did thus-and-such for Your sake, Lord… now, You’ve got to do this for me in turn.” The fact is, He doesn’t owe us anything for anything we might do – our debt to Him is insurmountable as it is; anything we could do for Him would be trivial in comparison. In fact, He speaks of people claiming just this at the end of days, over for Him to tell them, “I never knew you.”

All of which is another reason that what we refer to as ‘karma’ really isn’t what the original meaning suggests. Not only do good things happen to those who do good (and, likewise for bad things), but according to these Eastern religion people who do good things become good people. Again, that’s completely out of the question in our belief system; while it may be argued that we might become better people, we are no more able to become truly ‘good’ than we are to jump from Navy Pier to Benton Harbor. Sure, with exercise and training, we could get to where we could jump that much farther, but compared to the distance needed, it’s negligible. What’s a few more feet, compared to some 63 miles?

So while certain actions will bring about certain results – and sometimes, they can be quite fitting, as with a con man selling potency ‘medications’ who can’t even get them to work for himself – it’s not that we believe in karma in its original form. Indeed, when we speak of karmic results, they’re usually worthy of comment specifically because they’re so unusual. So… yeah, that’s the path a dream with almost no visual elements takes me. Wait until you see where the other one goes…

Talk to you in a moment or two, honey.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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