We were at the end of a conversational catch up and had started running through a mini list of people we’d known back in the day. ‘Oh, you didn’t hear? R was murdered. Like, violently.’ This did not come as a shock to me. His lifestyle and the people he associated with could’ve predicted this. He had just gotten out of prison for a second time and moved back into a sketchy neighborhood of dope dealing –the only life he knew. A guy he let into his apartment knifed him in the gut, then pulled it out and kept on erratically slashing. Supposedly. R was not an upstanding citizen by any stretch of the imagination. To what extent he brought this upon himself, neither of us knows. In this circumstance, it was a drug deal gone wrong or R slept with another man’s woman. Some people go down in horrific ways. Sometimes horrific things happen to people who don’t deserve it; or have already served their time.
Later that day, on the phone, another tragedy was relayed by a family member. A woman known to have only recently been released from the pen, now found herself immobile and half broken from a random broadside with a semi-truck. Also, after a second time serving time. Barely free again, she was now hearing impaired and partially blind.
It was simply coincidence these two stories were shared on the same day. This prompted my wondering about righteousness and deserved fate. Even detached from world religions, people can be heard invoking karma in off-handed comments: They’ll get what they deserve. He had it comin. Serves’em right.
When we’ve been wronged or personally hurt, retaliation and lashing out seems instinctual, almost involuntary. A justice system serves to give us resolution and denotes a finality. It keeps a civil society civil. Whereas, retaliation may never end. To avenge on behalf of another or to seek revenge for one’s sake is to perpetuate the bad cycle. We see this lived out via gang wars and land disputes. It may never end. It started so far back, there is often no recollection of its origin. Without resolution, a misdeed can stay dormant inside us, too. We’re all familiar with the dictum on how carrying anger is poisoning the self.
It is understandable to see life as too random and unwieldy to equal out in fairness. Humans are unpredictable. At the same time, life is absolutely not random; as we see coincidences pop up daily. We think of someone out of the blue, and they call. We cannot bend nature to our will or wishes, though. Pray as one may. Yet nature continues, and uses its will to bend an outcome, e.g. the way tree roots grow down and out, and get so determined they break concrete and destroy foundations of homes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Nature is constant, inevitable.
This is why I can’t completely dismiss karma. Cause and effect is nature. An Israeli guy I follow on social media is well-versed in the Torah and often speaks of karma and justice in the Biblical context. He recently asked, ‘What has been building up over time?’ I couldn’t help but think how America is currently deliberating over reparations for Blacks and the African American community as a whole. Neuroscientists are even coming around to the trauma from ancestors accumulating in our DNA. The Body Keeps the Score delves into this. If there wasn’t an emotional legacy of trauma, we wouldn’t experience PTSD.
I know both human nature and nature itself can be both random and promote chaos. Yet, it is still because of science I believe things must equal out in the end. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Maybe not in this lifetime. Certainly not always coming directly from the one wronged. I’ve always been the optimistic sort, though. Our own goodwill can mitigate some aspects of misdeeds. It takes a fortitude to believe this, because there’s no guarantee one way or another. That’s the hardest pill to swallow. This is why some turn to religion. Still, a lot of people are not religious. A lot of people are not even spiritual. It’s worth considering how things may be resolved.