Every interaction you have with another human being gets stored in both people’s memories for the rest of their lives. Everybody remembers billions of mundane and important interactions they’ve had with countless friends and strangers. Those memories stay with us floating around in our minds long after the people who made them have gone. We dream about them. We imagine them as we’re walking wide awake through the day. We draw up old memories all day every day and play them in our imagination in front of us like looking through imaginary Google Glasses.
When you see your dead grandmother’s face behind your eye lids when you close your eyes you know your dead grandmother isn’t really in front of you, and yet you “saw” her face, and it had a physical effect on you. You could actually watch that ghost move across your brain by getting a brain scan while thinking about your dead grandmother. That’s as good as a real ghost.
The ghosts of everyone we’ve ever met don’t swarm around us all day though. We forget most people’s faces, but the accumulative effect they had on us stays with us and shapes our reality in the present. People who were treated badly by everyone they’ve ever met will have nothing but a lifetime of memories of bad people to base his perception of reality on. Even if that person can’t remember every little detail of how they got screwed over in life they remember that life is shit because people are shit. Hot chicks who get pampered by everyone they ever meet don’t remember every act of kindness done to them, but they remember that life is pretty good because people are kind. In this way most of the ghosts of your past will merge into one big, amorphous cloud that follows you around everywhere you go and colors your perception. A life of abuse and abandonment creates a dark, rainy cloud that follows you everywhere booming with thunder and throwing lightning bolts at you; and a life of love and support creates a bright, shiny light that warms and encourages you.
In those clouds there are ghosts whose faces you recognize. You might think of your best friends from the last place you lived all the time. The more you want to have sex with a person the more their face will haunt you no matter where you go or what you do. If a stranger did something exceptionally kind for you then you’ll remember their face multiple times throughout your life even though your interaction with them may have only lasted a few seconds. Each time you remember their face they’ll bring that warm glow with them and make you feel good even though they’re not really there. The worse somebody hurt you and the more often they did the clearer and more present their face will be in your mind, and when those ghost show up they bring the pain of the past back with them.
Every time you interact with another human being you both create a ghost of the other person in your mind. The more times you interact with the same person, and the more intense the interaction is, the bigger and clearer your ghost becomes in the other person’s mind. There are millions of ghosts of you circling other people’s minds haunting them in ways that you have no control over. Your past is stuck on auto-repeat in those people’s minds. Memories of you being bad are like cold, wet chains holding that person down, and memories of you being kind and admirable are like a warm sun lighting the way ahead for them.
The people you haunt in a bad way will act like hurt, scared, distrusting, angry animals. The people you haunt in a good way will enjoy life. Their attitude will in turn create more ghosts every time they interact with anyone else, and those ghosts will make new ghosts every time any of those other people interact with another person. The ripple effects add up exponentially causing all of our actions to have a profound impact on countless people.
This means you have a profound responsibility to your fellow man. Mistreating other people is like opening the gates to Hell and letting demons loose on the world to breed and haunt innocent people in ways that literally hurt them. But being nice to other people is like creating little angel doves that fly out into the world and bring happiness and help to those who are haunted by the demons let loose by the selfish, greedy and ignorant people in the world.
The amount of karma ghosts you’ll let loose on the world during your life time is astronomical, but it could theoretically be tallied after you died. It would be just if they haunted you for the rest of eternity, but there’s no empirical evidence to suggest there’s an afterlife, let alone one that revolves around moral retribution. We don’t even know if there’s a meaning to life at all. It may very well be that at the end of your life you won’t have to account for the way you treated other people, but that doesn’t change the fact that people are important, and it matters how you treat them. It matters to them and everyone else. And it should matter to you, because for every karma ghost you let loose in the world thousands of the same will come back to haunt you in ways that will literally cause you pain.
It’s also worth noting that you will remember your own interactions with everyone. Your memories of yourself will haunt you more than any other ghost. If you have to share your skull with the ghost of an angry, abusive monster you’re going to be angry and miserable all the time. That’s immediate karma, and the longer you spend your life feeding your demon the bigger it will grow and fill up your reality. That’s compound karma. The sooner you break the cycle of mistreatment the sooner you can start accruing compound happiness for yourself and the rest of mankind.
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- Reason vs faith: part 1, part 2
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Originally published at thewisesloth.com on April 7, 2013.