Karma is not, however, something I think about consciously in my day to day life. Nor do I think about it as it pertains to justice or forgiveness. If someone were to ask, I would say that I don't really believe in karma. This poses a problem considering our task for this week's Hump Day Hmmm. Julie's topic for us is to, "Discuss the concept of karma, and what you think of its role in justice, injustice, and forgiveness."
The problem, I think, with invoking karma is that it takes things out of my hands. Some people see karma as actually helping one to control life. After all, if you are the best person you can be, won't life treat you well? But for me, the idea of karma makes the events around me uncontrollable. Why? Because good things don't always happen to good people. As a certified Type A personality, I don't deal well with things beyond my control.
Nor can I brush off an insult, a crime, or an injustice with the thought that "karma" will pay an individual back for their misdeeds. I'm more of a fighter. If I see an injustice, a crime, a slight, I get mad. And I fight back. I invoke the justice system. I don't sit back and let "karma," that slacker, do its job.
Do I think that bad things will happen to bad people who do bad things to others? Yes, I do. But probably because of the circumstances, not karmic retribution. A bad person who hurts another, for instance, is far more likely to be thrown in jail for such a crime than the innocent bystander, assuming we've controlled for all confounding factors. Do I think that "karma" has anything to do with that? No.
To tie this post in with the Hump Day Hmmm two weeks ago regarding accidents of birth, I also think that reliance upon karma can, again, be used as a pass for those who feel that the problems of this world are not their responsibility. If "karma" controls, then has the poor child born with AIDS in Africa done something to deserve this accident of birth? Has a teenage girl who is raped done something to deserve her treatment? Does a 34 year old mother of a two year old and a five month old deserve her recent cancer diagnosis?
I think most reasonable people would say, not just no, but HELL NO!
I can, however, see karma's role with respect to forgiveness.
I've written here before about how I am not a forgiver. Forgiveness does not come easily to me, even for small slights.
For many years, as a child, a twenty-something student, and even as a thirty-something professional, I could not forgive my mother for her faults. My mom became a mother at a young age - 22 - an age at which I could fathom being responsible for a small person. At 22 I was at the bar three times a week, absorbed in my own little dramas and passion plays. But my mother, my mother was raising a family with a husband far away.
My father was a navigator in the Air Force and, while he clearly loved us, he simply wasn't there. My mother did most of the heavy lifting in our family. She was the disciplinarian, the teacher, the sounding board, the confidant. She bore the weight of three worlds on her very young shoulders.
My mother was also moody and distant at times. She liked time to herself, without the constant demands of two soul sucking small children and, later on, the demands of being a student and then a high school teacher. In hindsight it seems we begrudged her every second of time alone.
I catalogued every perceived slight and error my mother made until I could recite them as a prayer, my unholy liturgy of blame.
Of course now that I am a mother, I understand. I understand the pressures of working and raising children. Of struggling to find an identity outside that of "mother." I, with my sense of self firmly entrenched before having children, cannot imagine how much harder that struggle must be when there hasn't been any time to develop that individual identity, to grow up.
Now, having suffered the sleep deprivation, long working hours, and a sometimes absentee husband, I understand all too well the depression I saw in my mother. I understand the isolation she must have felt moving far away from her family and friends only to have a part-time husband and co-parent.
And so, in my hard earned wisdom, my mother and I are redefining our relationship once again. I have forgiven her and, I believe, she has forgiven me as well. But without that first step, those first token words or steps taken towards forgiveness, how does it ever happen?
I firmly believe that those who are forgiven are more likely to in turn forgive. So I guess, maybe, I believe in karma just a bit after all.