How Karma Affects You and Your Relationships
Or my best guess, at least, which you’re welcome to question
By MARTIN REZNY
Yes, you read that right, this is an authoritatively titled esoteric article that invites you to think critically about it. I feel like a disclaimer is necessary, since this isn’t going to be the kind of article that people who would search for something close to the title of this article would expect to find.
For any skeptics who might have arrived here by accident, there is indeed no actual science to karma. Well, beyond the Newton’s third law (every action leads to an equal and opposite reaction), which technically only applies to motion. I am going to discuss karma empirically and logically, though.
The karma hypothesis is testable, after all, and completely uncontroversial within conventional bounds. Put simply, it states that one’s positive or negative actions are bound to have indirect consequences, sooner or later, rewarding good intent and all the help provided to others, while punishing bad intent and any harm caused to others. It’s fuzzy, but not dumb.
The obvious criticism of this basic everyday-life conception of karma is that sometimes, good intent is punished or leads to harm, while bad intent is rewarded or actually helps the situation. The problem with this critique is that it is a superficial response to a superficial definition of karma. If one wants to start any science of karma, the concept has to be developed much further.
The main technical aspects of karma to consider are:
- NATURE OF KARMIC BALANCE
- NATURE OF REWARD AND PUNISHMENT
- TIME FRAME OF KARMIC BALANCING
- INTENTION-EFFECT INTERACTION
- CHOICE-PREDESTINATION INTERACTION
- ROLE OF NATURE, NURTURE, AND PEER PRESSURE
- TRANSCENDENTALITY OF KARMA
For every logical problem with the basic definition of karma on any of these levels, there can be a logical solution, if you think about it just a bit more. One can also try to use empirical examples to support or rule out any particular definition of karma. Starting with one’s own experience, and then scaling up.
Balancing the Balance
The simplest idea of karmic balance is that the world is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, or more specifically, good people and bad people. In this view, karma is on the side of good people, counterbalancing any advantages that being evil inherently brings as a shortcut, the easy way.
This is, however, a very hard case to make, given that any serious investigation must show that nobody is perfect, let alone perfectly good or perfectly evil. Maybe like one dude in the history of the world, just to show that every rule has an exception, but most people are a mix of good and bad.
Notice that I changed “evil” into “bad”, as “evil” requires fully conscious malicious intent, and most people likely don’t harm others out of evil intent. Even assuming evil exists in a physical way, most harm in the world is likely the result of personal failings, of ignorance and weakness. Of bad, not evil.
This distinction is key. When people object to karma by pointing out that evil people sometimes win or don’t get punished (within this life, anyway), they fail to consider that good intentions are no guarantee of success. It just means that in order for karma to catch up with you (quickly), you have to fuck up.
When that happens, it would be expected that evil intentions will result in more severe karmic punishment than just personal ignorance or weakness. One person can also be simultaneously rewarded for what they meant well or did right, and punished for maliciousness or any harm they caused.
If you think about significant historical figures, you often run into this nuance. Some were better or worse overall, of course, on a scale from someone like Hitler to someone like Lincoln, but almost all were fundamentally mixed in both intentions and results, and their karma.
This doesn’t disprove karma, it only complicates it, makes it harder to disentangle. Which is why there are at least six more dimensions to consider other than balance itself. On the level of balancing, the karmic balance is complex in that each person is a balance, and each action is a balance.
You’re not just rewarding good people for being good and punishing evil people for being evil. You’re separately (though probably holistically) rewarding each good intention and good deed and punishing each evil intention and bad deed, of which most people have a mess of a mix.
Note that intentions and deeds are separate, which is how each action is mixed. You can mean well and do wrong, or mean to harm and do right, not to mention that you can simultaneously help some people and harm others by the same deed. Which invokes one additional level of karmic balancing.
There’s the issue of how many people you have affected, which is simple enough, but also the issue of the quality of the people you affected — what was the specific personal karma of each of the affected individuals. Following the principle of balance, the kind of person you help or harm also matters.
Harming a good person and helping an evil person are clearly the most wrong actions, followed by helping or harming a bad person, followed by harming an evil person and helping a good person. This still allows for a workable, logically consistent equation, just a beast of one. Let’s try to recap it:
- Karmic balancing generally rewards you for helping others and punishes you for harming them.
- The reward or punishment is greater if your intention aligns with the action.
- The more people you affect, the stronger the reward or punishment becomes.
- The individual karma of the people helped or harmed also matters, in that it is better to help good people and less bad to harm evil people.
- All of this is calculated for each intention and deed separately, resulting in almost everyone’s karma and every act of karmic balancing being mixed.
- This also means that karma is specific to different aspects of one’s life, meaning that it matters in what areas you have helped or harmed someone.
- Finally, the same action can help some people while simultaneously harming others, making karma even more mixed.
To give you an intricate example to demonstrate all of this nuance, take a stereotypical rich and powerful evil person, who does give many people jobs, so that’s a plus. However, the jobs harm the environment, which negatively affects many other people, but also many of the people who have those jobs.
In this situation, the people who both benefit from and are harmed by the evil person’s business are net-neutral in karma toward the evil person, but those who are only harmed are a net negative. The intentions of the evil person are selfish and cruel, so this is major negative karma. But that’s not all he does.
Yes, the evil person is a he, it makes statistical sense. He also gives a lot of money to various charities, which positively affects way more people than his business harms. Not out of the goodness of his heart, so that decreases the net benefit, but even so, it may still be enough to balance the lesser harm.
In all likelihood, that’s just one of many things that are going on in his life. This karma would make sense to affect his business or his health (given the harms are to the health and well-being of people), but what is he doing in his love or family life? Maybe he’s a genuinely great husband and dad.
Or maybe he’s honestly trying to be, but mostly failing. In any case, such a demonstrably evil person, as far as public opinion is concerned, could be, in terms of karma, living more on a knife’s edge between net-positive and net-negative karma overall. A thorough analysis would be needed to determine it.
One Man’s Reward
In the theory of karma, there appear to be many instances of a “one man’s something good is another man’s something bad” types of rules. One cannot simply compile a list of objective things that can happen to a person that are universal karmic rewards or universal karmic punishments. People differ.
A karmic reward may be something that the person in question wants, but only if they also need it and if it will have constructive influence on their life. A karmic punishment, too, may be something that the person wants, it may even be something objectively pleasant or generally good for most people, but which will bring misery to the person or present a harsh challenge for them.
For most people in most situations, getting ill, for example, is bad. For some people in some situations, it could save their life, or lead to them finding the love of their life. For most people, having more money is good, but to many a lottery winner, it was the worst thing that ever happened to them, ruining their life. When judging reward from punishment, long view is necessary.
Karma is all about ultimate consequences, with the emphasis on “ultimate”. Hard and painful things in life are not just bad, and easy and pleasant things in life are not just good. Even in this dimension, karma maintains a kind of balance, making sure life is exactly as easy or hard as it makes sense to be.
Which brings to mind the saying “be careful what you wish for”. If it’s something ill-conceived that you want for the wrong reasons, you should be very likely to get it, as it would be both a punishing and instructional experience. Wanting should more often than not result in bad karma.
It most often shows in romantic relationships, where people tend to have very misguided ideas regarding what kind of person they should be with, and where they often disregard any harm they may be causing to others to get what they want. For some people, being rejected could be a reward.
Being in a toxic relationship with an asshole is actually a textbook example of punishment that people may not choose to see as such. What it also shows, however, is that karma seems to have a point beyond punishment, especially when one isn’t full-on evil. Karmic “punishments” are learning opportunities.
Given that learning and growth are pretty close to being universally good things, the overall arc of karmic balancing seems to be to improve people, and the world, over time. From this perspective, karmic punishment is often rewarding, meaning that mistakes will not be ignored, but can be forgiven.
When Forever Is Now
Another main complaint against karma is that it hardly ever seems to work fast enough. When it does happen immediately or almost immediately, the term for it is “instant karma”, and it’s usually hilarious. However, this is typically limited to impulsive negative actions, which happen in the moment.
Apart from balance, the second main principle in the theory of karma is proportionality. When someone is being systematically bad or evil over a long period of time, it makes sense that the karmic response takes a similarly long period of time. In my experience, it’s often almost the same amount of time.
To put it into a simple rule, it typically takes as long to fix or repay something as it took to mess it up in the first place. There does seem to be some transitivity with intensity, though. Imagine it like a fire, burning off karma — same intensity, same duration; the bigger the flame, the shorter the span.
For the big wrongs in life, there’s an apt Czech saying which can be translated as “mills of the gods grind slowly, but surely”. My theory of why many evil people tend to be allowed to be evil for a lifetime, harming many people in the process, is that the universe is set up to allow us to fully reveal our natures.
In terms of karma, there’s a big difference between imagining doing something wrong, and doing something wrong. If truly evil people were not given enough opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of what they would do, given the chance, then they couldn’t be fully judged by the universe.
It feels unsatisfactory to us because as far as we know, one life is all there is. Which we kinda have to consider as a real option, otherwise it would be very hard to take life seriously. Karma not only doesn’t require one life being all there is, it doesn’t indicate that any of this is ever supposed to definitively end.
It is traditionally part of spiritual traditions that favor reincarnation, but it could just as well make sense in a simulated universe (where life is a kind of game or lesson). Especially in a scenario that we plan to do eventually to test whether the general AIs we develop are safe to be released into the real world.
There’s no much use to speculating about what lies beyond the veil, however, so I won’t dwell on it here. Even within our limited perspective, the trials in life and deaths of people like Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin were not pretty, not to mention their legacies, but that’s again the issue of what punishment is.
It’s generally harder to deal with all the demonstrably good people who suffered and died young, within our limited perspective (reincarnation would solve it easily). There is still some balancing in that sacrifices of good people have power to move more people to do good, making for a great legacy.
Ultimately, one can also question the shortness of life being bad on these and other grounds. As another saying goes, it doesn’t matter how long you live, but how well you do it, meaning that there’s still the issue of quality. An hour waiting in line is not as valuable as a minute of doing anything one loves, so one can have a karmically balanced, if compressed, short life.
Beyond that, there’s still a debate to be had, about what the role of karma is within human society versus within nature as a whole, given that there are horrible natural afflictions that seem to affect whole species, including definitely innocent people, but let’s table that for some other time. For now, I will stick to how karma seems to operate for humans who reach adulthood.
In personal relationships, the main lesson here is that making things right takes time and effort. It’s pointless to demand that the universe dishes out justice according to your schedule. Time is the most precious resource in the universe, so in terms of karma, it actually can be thought of as currency.
You should therefore choose very carefully where you invest it, into which relationships. Karmic punishment can simply mean a loss of that investment that you will never get back. Conversely, the time you spend helping good people is like putting money in the bank. Although, paradoxically, it will be more of it if you don’t think about it like that. Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Time is also a crucial variable in the spiritual concept of the wheel of fortune — if things in your life are unfair, just wait. Everyone’s turn comes eventually for their karmic reward or punishment, and nothing stops at that moment. The wheel of karma always keeps on spinning. You can try to lower the peaks and troughs by avoiding living your life, but is that really better (Buddhists)?
One Man’s Success
Similarly to how rewards and punishments can be relative and therefore tricky to differentiate, there’s the big question of whether ends justify the means. In the context of karma, it’s a variation on this dilemma that deals with comparing the relative value of intentions versus accomplishments.
To be internally a good person and fail is logically inferior to being a good person who externally succeeds, but it’s much harder to compare it to the scenario when an evil person accidentally helps everyone. The evil extreme is then just as clear as the good extreme — successful evil is the worst option.
In this world, it’s not enough to mean well to survive, one has to be effective, which means that karma should be concerned with ability as well as intent. What doesn’t help is that the gray, “not great, not terrible” area of mixed intentions and success is where most people likely live most of their lives.
If we look at the example of how this issue manifests in romantic relationships, it’s not enough to be a nice guy (especially if the guy only believes he’s nice) to get the girl. At the same time, it’s not right when the asshole gets the girl. But in this situation, the asshole plays a critical role.
One of the better, more practical explanations of why evil exists is that good people need an adversary or adversity to be motivated to grow, to become not only good, but powerful. If karma as a cosmic law is concerned with perfecting the universe and the beings within it, it must allow competent antagonists to prosper, so that good people become motivated to defeat them.
Karma will probably still torment the bad guys in many subtle, ironic ways, spoiling their experience of success, but that again hits upon the boundary between internal and external life. Bad karma will always result in existential, internal punishments, but any success in the external world has to be earned by competence, at some point. Only inherited wealth complicates this.
There is a special category of people who are externally successful through no contribution of their own, but that’s a special karmic curse all by itself. It seems very difficult for someone in this position to be able to overcome feelings of demotivation, inadequacy, guilt, shame, being a fraud, being in your parents’ shadow, take a pick. It’s like being set up to be an adversary.
It really seems that the only thing that karma strives to prevent is rest, being at peace, for any prolonged period of time. One has to pay for everything in pain, either by being hurt for doing something wrong or stupid, or by voluntarily choosing to make a sacrifice. Usually, voluntary sacrifice is the less painful option, it just often doesn’t appear that way. Karma isn’t nice.
It’s no wonder that there are multiple religions that denounce this world as evil — Buddhists who try to escape karma by ceasing to want or do anything, a whole interpretation of this realm as a place of suffering being ruled by a cruel Demiurge, and more. Then again, from a humanistic, existentialist perspective, life may be hard, but it can certainly be argued as being worth it.
If you again consider karma as a mechanism to perfect beings and the world over time, what would be the alternative? Are beings who can’t handle suffering morally superior to beings who can handle it, and still manage to be fundamentally good, benevolent and caring people? Being unable to handle difficulty sure sounds like a weakness, and lack of difficulty sounds boring.
With that said, I’m not diminishing the difficulty. In many people’s lives, it rises all the way up to epic, the highest possible difficulty, including the greatest imaginable tragedies. Then again, much like you need a lot of time and opportunities to test exactly how evil someone is, you need the greatest of hardships to test just how great and magnificent a good person can be.
At that level, of noble tragedy, the whole concept of external success breaks down, as being able to face an unwinnable situation is harder than achieving any kind of success. Karmically speaking, the very best people will often be the greatest “losers”, to borrow a term from one inexplicably powerful village idiot. It is ironically the greatest loss that may result in the greatest karmic reward, only an internal one. Though there’s nothing “only” about that.
The ultimate karmic solution for the question of why successful evil is allowed to exist in the world is that it doesn’t matter because the external world doesn’t really matter. It’s the people in it that matter, every person’s internal state. External evil can cause you suffering, but if you master yourself, your self becomes immune to suffering. After that, no evil can touch your soul.
The Staging of Life
I have already mentioned one seemingly predestined role a person can serve to the rest of humanity, an adversary. If karma is a real thing, roles like adversary, of which there are many more kinds, are necessary just on a technical level. If life is supposed to teach you to become a better person, then life is not unlike a so called morality play. An extremely sophisticated one.
From this perspective, there is an aspect of everyone’s life that is a given, usually derived from one’s starting position. Think about all of the things that you feel you haven’t chosen in your life, and of what function you serve in the lives of people around you. You may start differently wealthy, differently intelligent, differently attractive, and with different sexual orientation.
If you start with high stats in these and similar areas, maybe your role is to be a protagonist, or antagonist, of some part of the story of life that’s going to be played out in your community. If you start with low stats, you’re probably supposed to test the kindness of those more fortunate. If you start oppressed, maybe you’re supposed to bring out the worst in people, to confront them.
In romantic relationships, there’s a whole host of roles that people can play to teach each other how to grow as people through relationships, or their absence. Maybe you’re attractive to everyone, maybe you’re a magnet for abusive partners, maybe you’re too nice and get taken advantage of, maybe you’re the abuser. Maybe that’s just your starting position, or maybe not.
Generally, the roles are either active, or support. Some people are supposed to be tested in their intentions and ability, others are supposed to provoke certain types of people to test their intentions and ability. If karma exists, all cannot be victims, just like all cannot be the heroes of their story. The mere act of playing your part is then exempt from karma, as that’s not your choice.
What makes it a bit more tricky is that some roles are transformational, being tested for their ability to grow and overcome. Some of those may not have any ceiling. A good indicator of what’s expected of you is that karma is not unfair, meaning everything bad that comes from something involuntary should be counterbalanced by something comparably good. If your situation’s all wrong, and not through a direct fault of your own, it’s not supposed to stay that way.
Overall, it’s a lot like in the saying “all the world’s a stage”, except with much deeper and more specific meaning. Life is a collective effort, a web of roles that people play for each other, whether they realize it, or not. The only exception is the role of an extreme individualist, a person who’s only bound by their own agency. But even they serve others, as a contrast example.
It’s also important to realize that each person can serve as many different roles as they have areas of life in which they’re active. There could be a thematic connection between them, or it could be as if the person was multiple different people. Most typically, one would play at least one role in the realm of career, one in the realm of love, one in the realm of ideas, and one as a personal example. Each can be differently important to others.
This is one of the easier ways how to conceptually separate one’s karma into distinct areas which each have their own karmic balance. What’s not easy is to list or exactly define each of these areas, other than in broad strokes. It’s as if an actor played multiple parts in multiple plays simultaneously with a single performance, while some of the parts overlapped. It’s not impossible to map one’s web of roles, but it would require a lot of work for each individual.
It’s a lot like role-playing games, which in their computer version can become ridiculously complicated in the amount of possible combinations of character traits and interactions. Who knows, if the world is some kind of simulation or something similar to a simulation, all of these “predestined” character traits and roles to play may even be chosen, prior to incarnation. Much like one chooses which game to play, as which character, and on what difficulty.
However, by that I again don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of life. If any of our computer games contained real entities with real feelings, you would think twice about hurting them. Or at least I hope you would. Many careers are definitely games and people tend to take them very seriously. It’s all about the consequences — if they’re felt, the world is real. And you get karma.
The Vessel, the Stream, and the Waterfall
Related to the issue of “predestined” roles, there are other forces in the world that limit our choices. They are nature (your biological body and its constraints), nurture (how your parents raised you, or any care you received), and peer pressure (what other people do around you and push you to do). They differ in that unlike your role, they’re not absolute limits.
As far as the karmic equation is concerned, they will not excuse you from karmic punishment and will not count as your positive contributions to be rewarded. In a key sense, they are not you. You are not your body, or your parents, or your social group. Only doing what they urge or incline you to do is walking the path of least resistance, which is at best morally neutral.
More likely though, they’re slippery slopes toward some sort of challenge or trial. If you’re naturally good looking and you lean into it, you will be confronted with people only interested in exploiting your looks. If your parents are a dysfunctional couple and you follow their example, you will get yourself into a dysfunctional relationship. If all of your friends start taking drugs and your only concern will be to fit in, you’ll become an addict too.
These things are not inevitable, they’re just downstream from where you started. You can think of yourself as being asleep in a vessel on its way toward a waterfall, a point of no return. At any point, you can wake up and start paddling in the opposite direction. Better yet, you can also try to leave the river altogether, going for the bank. Some rivers are more treacherous than others, especially the closer you get to the waterfall, but that changes little.
These types of inertia are like karma on a timer. In the best case scenario, there may even be no waterfall, or not a terminal one, or one very far away. Your body, family, and friends can all be constructive influences. In that case, however, I would start to worry that I’m the antagonist who’s here to test them. Or maybe your personal test simply lies in an entirely different area, while body, family, or friend problems would only be a distraction from it.
Which kind of influence one is most susceptible to is often used in personality typologies to define people, but from the perspective of karma, agency is really the only attribute that matters. The personality type chiefly defined by individual agency, leaders, is therefore the one most frequently affected by karma. It will often have to deal with the consequences of affecting others.
The more passively resistant stoic types, who default to nature, tend to deal with a slow burn of very long-term karma. Which may intensely explode in the end, if they decide to be an obstacle to good things happening. The suggestible types, who are shaped heavily by nurture and peer pressure, tend to be the most forgiven, as leaders may lift a lot of responsibility off of their shoulders. At the same time, they’ll have the least control over their lives.
In any case, if you’re reasonably sure that your karma is overall good, then “going with the flow” shouldn’t bring you any harm. Then again, I don’t think it’s easy to be reasonably sure of that. A good general advice in life is to try to find out what lies ahead in the direction in which you’re moving. Especially if you’re not moving there on your own power and if it would take you some time and effort to turn back or change tracks. Awareness helps.
To sum up the whole picture, there is your role, then there’s your inertia, and then your agency. Your role may be dynamic, but you can’t really change it. Within than role, you aren’t responsible for your inertia, but you can (and probably should) resist it, as it can drive you off a cliff, eventually. Everything that’s left undetermined after that is up to you to decide using your agency. It’s your choices that karma will be responding to, your intent and your deeds.
Outer Limits of Human Reality
The last key question that I can think of at the moment is what forms karma can take, what the limitations are of the balancing mechanism as such, how it can deliver rewards and punishments. At the beginning, I mentioned that karma isn’t controversial within conventional constraints, so let’s start with that. Even if karma isn’t universal, we like reciprocity and retribution.
When you do something nice or mean to a person and any people are aware of that, it will affect your reputation, which will affect how the people who are aware of your reputation will treat you. If this was the full extent of “karma”, it would be possible to escape it simply by moving into a different community or society, where you can start over and build a new reputation for yourself.
Which is exactly what all kinds of people with criminal record have always tended to do. Interestingly, even our human systems of justice have evolved to counter that, using information networks to make sure that your past sins can be accessible from anywhere on the planet to anyone whom they may concern. Like I said, there’s nothing controversial on how we are doing karma.
But does the universe know what you’ve done? One can commit a perfect crime, certainly perfect enough to leave police none the wiser. However, there is always someone who knows what you’ve done in a completely material, physical sense — you. Or at least you were knowing it when you were doing the wrong thing, which means that if karma is an information network, it would be one that connects all of consciousness. Or maybe it is in each of us.
That could potentially make it a conventional mechanism, or make more of it conventional, if you look at it as a form of conscience, as you punishing yourself for what you know you have done, consciously or subconsciously. This karmic mechanism wouldn’t even need to connect the contents of consciousness between multiple people, it would be limited to the individual.
This is the concept of each of us being the judge of whether we’ve done something wrong, like it is in some interpretations of how punishment in hell works, or in one brilliant Red Dwarf episode. The principle at work here is that the more aware you are of the wrongness of your actions, the more culpable, or guilty, you become, resulting in a more severe punishment.
Without a doubt, there’s at least an element of this mechanism going on, given that feeling guilty or ashamed is common. The problem is that if karma ended here, it would still leave injustice in the world, given that some people have no conscience, while others judge themselves too harshly. In these situations, an external intervention is needed, maybe even a divine one.
What I mean by that is that the more perfect the crime is and the more unrepentant the perpetrator is, the more improbable response of the universe will be required. Something that not even the criminal genius considered, some form of deus ex machina-level coincidence. It would still have to be dismissible as “just as coincidence”, though, to not blow karma’s cover.
It shouldn’t rise to the level of a genuine miracle, so don’t expect any laws of nature to be broken, but there is every expectation that there will be unlikely witnesses, sudden bursts of inspiration on the side of the investigators, strokes of good or bad luck that tip the scales, etc. It would make sense for karma to prefer the least amount of conspicuousness needed to balance the scales.
The reason why I have only discussed the scenario of avoiding punishment so far is that most people will not avoid karmic reward, except maybe when they don’t understand that the universe is trying to help them. Theoretically, it is possible, and if it were to happen, karma should still insist on balancing the situation. You could try to refuse the reward and then watch the improbability of it trying to find you skyrocket. I may be speaking from experience.
It would still be tricky, however, given that doing it only for the sake of the experiment would itself probably spoil your karma, diminishing the reward over time instead. You’d need to have a genuine philosophical issue with this whole concept of justice. Accepting and understanding the suffering, but not requiring compensation, on the grounds that some things happening at all are such a universal dick move that they cannot be compensated at all.
Which brings me to the edge of karma’s level of transcendence. Are there any competing forces, or higher powers? Given that karma isn’t immediate or perfect, the answer likely is yes. However, determining the details of it would be a task even more difficult than accurately describing what karma is and how it works. Put the most simply, Karma probably is one god (small “g”) among others, part of the same pantheon as Chaos, Love, War, and so on.
Karma, assuming it’s real, would still be only one of at least several fundamental dimensions of existence that matters. Think infinity stones. Breaking its rules doesn’t necessarily ruin one’s life, while following them to the letter arguably neutralizes life. The purpose of it appears to be to prevent this whole thing from spiraling out of control and perhaps to test the limits of good and evil, while clearly favoring good over evil, quenching evil over time.
So, do you agree with my analysis? Do you disagree? What is karma to you? To reiterate, these are not scientific facts. What I did is a philosophical treatment of the karma hypothesis, to better conceptualize it, so that, assuming it exists, one can get a better handle on life. Or so that one who doesn’t want to assume anything can get closer to devising empirical tests.
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