Somebody recently asked me if I believed in Karma. I said no, not if they think Karma is a synonym for paybacks. Because (a) Karma is not a synonym for payback (and not a bitch for that matter) and (b) I don’t think the Universe is fair.
While part (a) of this argument was deemed to high-brow for a buzzed bonfire commune, (b) obviously triggered a debate/discussion that went for the rest of the night.
For the sake of clarity and convenience, I will deal with (a) elsewhere, and stick to (b) for the rest of this piece.
So, is the Universe fair?
Most of the people around that bonfire seemed to think it was, at least in the sense of Karma as they understood it. You got what you deserved/worked for hard enough/attracted via your vibes and energy. Essentially, this is an assertion of the belief that there is a straight line of causation and consequences that governs our life. Which implies that life is nothing but a largely logical, easily explainable, neatly stacked series of life events that follow a set, predictable path ruled by a Universe that dispassionately hands out what you deserve.
If you are gaping at this oversimplified description of the mess that is life, you are not wrong. But this reductive idea is nothing more than an elaboration of the so called ‘Karma’ principle and an extension of the belief that the Universe is fair.
Of course the Universe is not fair. Anybody, including my five year old cousin who regularly complains about the unfairness of his life, can vouch for it. It is not without a reason that an adage like ‘God tests His best people’ and ‘bad things happen to good people for (insert placatory reasons) have found way into our cultural and linguistic conscience.
Instinctively, we all know this. And yet, when it comes to the exalted principles of hard work and deserving results and/or virtues like good conscience, benevolence and generally being a decent human being, we all resort to a conscious collective naivety, propagating the belief about fair returns for our good/sincere/hard deeds.
In truth, the Universe’s reward policy is a lot more complex, defies all compulsions of linearity and is unpredictable within the scope of average human comprehension.
This is not to say that there is no reward/retribution policy to begin with, just that nobody knows, or can know, what the hell it is.
When presupposing Universe’s fairness (or unfairness), we are essentially trying to box the Universe’s MO within the human understanding of ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’. Which, well, is beyond reductive. Because to even presume that an entity/force/thingmajig that is responsible for the entire Creation, humans included, will somehow be susceptible to anything human, be it morals, values, ideas, MOs, philosophy or logic, is laughable at best and tragically delusional at worst.
The point is, and I have reiterated it often enough, causal linearity is a joke when it comes to the designs of the Universe, and if causation is not a factor, any presumption about fairness and getting what we ‘deserve’ automatically go out of the window. In a straight, logical sense anyway.
A fellow writer had once described Universe as being akin to the relief helicopters that drop relief packages from the sky — well meaning, well intended but random and dispassionate.
It was a depressing thought, to think that the Universe doesn’t care — not for us specifically anyway — treating us as nothing more and nothing less than cogs in a wheel that it needs to keep in motion, smooth and uninterrupted.
I don’t entirely agree with the analogy. I don’t think the Universe doesn’t care. I think it does. The problem is we don’t know ‘how’ it cares. Because the part of the helicopter analogy that I wholeheartedly agree with, is the part that implies that the Universe is fundamentally compassionate.
The Universe is not fair. But it is compassionate. Which is about as jarring a combination as it sounds.
The relief helicopters are random and do not care who the recipients of their benevolence are, are unconcerned about their life experiences, choices, intent, deeds and even identities. They exist to do a job and do it to perfection. Their lack of specific concern is not on account of apathy, but simply because they lack the wherewithal, the machinery, the system to care about individuals and still do their job and ensure everyone’s best interest.
The Universe has no such limitations. The all powerful entity/force that has created us sure has the machinery and systems and whatever it is that is needed to care about each one of us. And if Universe still chooses to not care about us, specifically and in general, doing what it does in all its random joy and glory, it is not just a profoundly depressing thought. It is downright terrifying. Because then, what is the point of anything?
The nihilist in me doesn’t question the randomness of the Universe. But my faith refuses to give up on the idea of the compassion of Universe, in the idea that there is a method to the madness, however indecipherable and incomprehensible, in the belief that the Universe cares for us even when it seemingly doesn’t.
In the vast randomness of the Universe governed by a web of factors that are pretty much beyond the grasp of our understanding or imagination, we may or may not get what we think we deserve. But it is my belief and faith that the Universe’s MO, however unknowable, is always seeped in compassion.
It has been my personal experience, corroborated by the experience of a lot of people I know who have survived seemingly insurmountable difficulties, that life or the Universe has its own way of balancing things out. When the chips are down , help sometimes comes through unexpected means. Our lowest of phases are often marked by brightest of insights, and when one aspect of our life is undergoing a terrible low, things seem to either look up on the other fronts, or at least smoothen out enough to give us a chance to catch our breath.
Maybe it is a delusional exercise in self preservation or maybe it is human resilience at play but I have always believed that the Universe is watching us, keeping an account of our sufferings, our hard work, our good deeds, our intent, our virtues, our pain — blessing us with whatever we need to cope with any given phase in life, and making notes for its own reward/retribution scheme.
Maybe it is a well founded belief, maybe it is not. But either way, maintaining this belief seems like a brighter, more hopeful alternative. After all, minus a causal linearity, whatever Universe does makes little sense, and a faith in Universe’s core compassion is all we have to steer us through this madness.
It is true that even minus that faith, we can we find the intent and strength and ability to strive to do our best and survive life. A lot of us do. And it is nothing but a remarkable feat of will and self belief.
For me, however, it is tough to keep pushing when the cloud of a dispassionate, uncaring Universe hangs over my world. Given the times we live in, believing in the Universe and its compassion is not easy. But I choose to believe anyway. Because if I don’t, how do I live?
This is the ninety first installment in my 100 days, 100 blogs challenge. In case you missed it, the previous installment is about The Most Important Principle of Personal Happiness.
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