The Accounting System of the Universe
I don’t have proof or a chart or a grid to prove my feeling, but I do believe in karma or the return of the energy that we sow in the world. We reap what we put out there. We give and we get. What we do can come back to haunt or reward us. There is an accounting page in the universe, somewhere, and things balance out.
Most days, I think we try to forget this while at the same time trying to mind our own business and deal honorably with the world. Sometimes, we don’t do so well, doing something slightly to incredibly egregious. Being curt or rude, driving like an idiot, snapping at someone, refusing to budge during an argument. We tell one of the two lies folks apparently tell per day. We ignore a request for help. We fail to file our income taxes. All of that stuff builds up, and then one day, the doorbell rings, and it’s payback time.
I’ve been trying of recent years to consider this accounting system, this tit for tat. Some might say this is a ridiculous notion, and while it does seem wacky, I can’t help but hold to it.
Revenge seems to be built out of trying to control or manage this accounting system. Something terrible happens “to” us, and we decide that we are going to extract it back from the person ourselves, unwilling to wait for karma to be enacted. We feel wrong or slighted or hurt or wounded, and what do we do? We go to the source or something around the source. We are in a fight with someone, and we write an email to a person related to tell our side of the story first, with details and effect. Someone won’t write us a letter of recommendation, and we call that person’s place of employment to complain and accuse, hoping that the non-letter writer will get into some kind of trouble. We are hurt in a relationship and instead of going to counseling to deal with our pain, we undermine that person’s next relationship.
We want immediate karma. We want it now so that we can see it. We don’t want to wait a lifetime or several — we want to see the person writhe a little, squirming, twisting in the wind or on a noose. And oh! how good we will feel.
But I don’t think it feels that great. In the end, the fight still happened, the letter wasn’t written, the relationship is still over. The hurt remains.
Capital punishment is the extreme form of this attempt at instant karma, and I’ve read that the family members who fought for years for the person to die don’t have what they want in the end — the crime undone, the person harmed by the criminal alive and well and living in Peoria.
I am an atheist, but I am a big fan of Jesus. He was one cool, unattached, Zen dude, who seemed to understand this accounting system like no one’s business. He was no doormat though his seeming passivity in the Sermon on the Mount has been interpreted otherwise:
If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
There’s a lot going on here, but what I take away from it is that if our landlords won’t give us back our deposits or a student complains or a former boyfriend calls to read us the riot act, turn the other cheek. Don’t write an expose on rental practices in Oakland, using their first and last names. Don’t write to the college your student wanted the letter giving them the “real” story about her work in your class. Don’t post anything about the former boyfriend on Yelp.
Take a big breath. A really big breath. A damn, flipping HUGE breath, and walk on. There is that system out there that will even it up in some way, someday, maybe in a few lifetimes or maybe tomorrow. Don’t worry about it. It’s not ours to worry about any more.