Life was very simple when I was teenager. Things followed a linear path. Whilst I was riddled with teenaged angst, unsure of myself and my place in the world, I was at least sure of cause and effect. If you worked hard, you would achieve your dreams. If you were kind, kindness would be bestowed on you. If you did the right thing and made the right choices, then things would turn out just fine. Good things happened to good people. I believed in karma.
I don’t believe in karma anymore.
As a group, the girls I went to school with have been beset by more tragedy than seems fair. They are not my stories to tell, so I will not list the challenges and tragedies here, but there have been enormous losses sustained amongst a concentrated group.
When I think back to the fresh faces of my senior year, I wonder what we would have thought had we known the future. In what now seems like cruel irony, we had nicknamed ourselves “immortalised”. Time has taught us we are neither immortal nor immune.
When we first lost Xavier, I was sure I was being punished for something. I searched my heart and my soul for answers. What had I done to deserve this? And when my friends experienced their own personal hells, my first thought was “they don’t deserve this”. Despite life continually teaching us differently, it is hard not to assume cause and effect. That tragedy would somehow be fairer if it was only dealt to those who lived carelessly. That some cosmic system of checks and balances exists. It doesn’t. Sometimes terrible things happen to good people. Sometimes terrible things happen to people who appear to have had their fair share of tragedy. As you get older, it seems the terrible things mount up.
It is an eternal question – why bad things happen to good people? The theoretical and theological answers to that question are cold comfort when you are the person. When that question is not asked in some esoteric context, but wailed, pleading for answers. It is hard to accept that bad things happen so that others can be grateful for their blessings, or to give us an opportunity to lean on God, or because the world is imperfect. It easier to believe in chaos when you are in the midst of it. That there is no sense, no rhyme and no reason. That fate is random and cruel. When we lost Xavier, the inelegant words “it’s so unfair and it sucks” brought so much more comfort than pretty stories about God working in mysterious ways and things happening for a reason. Life does not owe any of us fairness. And quite often, she does not grant it.
We live in our world that believes in justice and blame. That seeks to attribute a terrible occurrence to someone’s misdeeds and punish them for it. But when there is no one to blame, what can you do? Shake your fist at God? Invite blame into places it does not belong? When we lost Xavier and they told us there were no answers, I blamed myself. There was no-one and nothing left to blame. But some-one had to be responsible and I took up the mantle. Like so many before me, laying under blankets of guilt. We are so sure of this karmic circle – that one thing leads to another that it is difficult to accept there is no link. That some terrible things happen without there being anyone to blame.
I don’t believe in karma. But I still believe in kindness. Not because it will be returned, but because it is a better way to live and it makes the hard things easier to bear. I still believe in hard work. Not because it will necessarily be rewarded, but because it is satisfying in and of itself. I still believe that there is good in the world – but it is not bestowed on the good people all of the time. The most we can do is hold fast to the love that surrounds us and give it away freely. In the midst of tragedy, it is kindness that offers some sweet relief and it is often tragedy that opens the flood gates to love. Karma may not exist, but kindness abounds.
8 thoughts on “Lies, Damn Lies and Karma”
I think this is true for a lot of people? As for me, I try very hard not to, but sometimes I look at how lucky and untouched by tragedy we are and I have a thought of ‘when will the hammer drop’? Like we’re happy now but we’re going to pay for it later. It’s not like it dominates my thoughts or affects my actions, but it’s just at the back of my mind.
A positive result is that it reminds me to appreciate what we have and be thankful, and try to be kind to others aren’t as fortunate, like you said. Xx
I used to think that too – don’t be too happy else something will happen to shatter it all. But I don’t think life works that way – it’s just very random.
Our little circle have endured some great losses, haven’t we?
What I have learned, through all of this, is the first people to help you up are the ones who know what it’s like to fall down.
Lovely words, Robyna. They’ll be of comfort to many. x
Sometimes I see photos from when we were all school girls and think – if only you knew what was ahead. Probably best we didn’t. You were definitely one of the people who knew exactly what to say when Xavier died. I am just so sorry about where that knowledge came from.
Thanks for that perspective Robyna, I can’t find it sometimes x
I think you play with so many different perspectives when things happen that you cannot understand.
I sometimes think about myself in high school too. If I only knew then what I know now, would I have done things differently? I almost want to tell my high school self to love and appreciate every moment because I will eventually have to carry the weight of grief in my heart. The loss of a child changes our perspective and changes us.
Indeed it does – I am glad for a period of innocence.