We’re like that, too. We’re all these individual bodies running around doing this and that, but we are all connected. For left brain proof, if we need that kind of thing, we can look to Einstein’s paper on (and other scientists ideas about) quantum entanglement. For right brain proof (likely not as necessary), we look to collective trends in writing, art, and invention that are not market driven, but that are discovered very close together prior to any notable trend. Take the Elisha Gray/Alexander Graham Bell Controversy, for example. Was this a case of theft or a case of pulling from the collective goo in order to make that telephone we can’t seem to live without?
This connectivity is characterized by different laws. One of those laws is cause and effect. The butterfly flits about in the Amazon and we feel it here. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous lives, determine how they will return in the next. This is Karma. But in Western culture, as we adopt terms and ideas from our Hindu and Buddhist family, we use the term karma synonymously with getting back what you put out. Sort of a negative or positive payback system.
I remember having a conversation with one of my youngest son’s friends about karma several years back. He was talking about “getting back at someone” and I said something like, “That’s bad karma.”
“I don’t believe in that,” he said, fairly sure I was out to lunch.
“Really?” I asked. “Why not?”
“Well, because my mom did something nice for someone and they didn’t do something nice back…so that’s why.”
(It should be noted here that my kids friends know they are in for philosophical conversations when they set foot in my periphery.)
You can see how he may come to this belief. But karma doesn’t work on a timeline. It’s not like you buy coffee for the person in back of you at Starbucks and then suddenly your coffee right then is free. Nor should you buy that coffee because you expect to get something in return. It dirties the karma.
Last week in my film class, the assignment was to practice level two of giving in Tzedakah, the Jewish system of charitable giving. Here is that description:
Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other.
We had watched Louise Hay’s film, You Can Heal Your Life, where Gay Hendricks tells the story of a man in suicidal state calling him on the phone and telling him he was going to end his life. Gay told him to think of something he could do for someone else. The man said he remembered there was a pile of trash on a neighbor’s doorstep (he didn’t know the neighbor). Gay told him to put down the phone, go clean it up without knocking, and come back to the phone. When the man returned, his whole tone had changed. He no longer felt like taking his life.
I have seen the effects of this over and over, in my life and in my kid’s lives. One of the key steps in recovery from just about anything is service. There’s a reason for that. That’s karma. Whatever you do comes back at you, good or bad.
When my students came back and reported in the results were inspiring. They noticed that by having an assignment to anonymously help someone else, a mindfulness set in that direction. Instead of thoughts about what someone else was not doing for them, they were focused on what they could do for others. This thinking, in one of life’s great paradoxes, is the best form of self care available.
Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time…
“One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
PS Sorry, Ems. I know you hate it when people use quotes.