Tuesday, March 10, 2009

324. karma police

"Karma police, I've given all I can, it's not enough."

I don't believe in karma.

I don't believe that what goes around comes around, at least not in this present lifetime.

Here's what I do believe. We all need to do the best we can with what we have, knowing, all the while, that it may never be appreciated, may never come back to us, may never offer us safety from "the whips and scorns of time."

But more on this later.

First, the reason I'm waxing philosophical: my beloved MacBook got stolen yesterday, basically right out from under my nose.

Here's how it went down.

I was hanging out at Q Cafe working on entries for a new blog I want to start (more on this when it gets off the ground). I'm typing away at my laptop when a friend asks me for some help with her computer. She's setting up for a presentation in a room just down the hall from the public cafe area. I think this won't take long and so I go and help. I'm probably away from my computer for ten, fifteen minutes max but when I get back to my table it's gone. I stand there looking at the empty desktop and try to puzzle through the mystery of why my laptop isn't there anymore.

Because the first stage of anything out of the ordinary is denial, I refrain from jumping to the obvious conclusion that it's stolen. Instead, I look in my bag, I go back to the room where I helped out my friend, I retrace all my steps and think through all the different things that I could have done with my laptop before it went missing.

And then I faced the ugly truth.

It was gone.

Once I realized that, I moved on to other thoughts and feelings. I thought maybe God was punishing me for not using the bulk of my unemployed free time to catch up on my writing. I became angry that my laptop was stolen while I was doing something to help a friend.

I quickly reasoned away the idea that God was punishing me. I don't think that's how God works and besides, my laptop was stolen in the midst of a writing session.

That second bit though, I have to admit that this theft brought back some old, latent feelings.

I was reminded of an entry (caution, potty mouth) I wrote back in '05 where I ranted about how frustrated I felt when I found that someone had stolen the brake pads off of my bicycle while I was at work. Back then, it wasn't really the brake pads that pissed me off - they were just the last in a string of frustrations I was having to endure at the time. The thing I was really writing about was the realization that doing and good and being good didn't mean that good would come back to you. And that was a pretty startling, sober conclusion to come to.

It was frustrations and revelations like that that led me to re-think my understanding of Christianity. A lot of the churches I attended and sermons I heard back then gave me the idea that God rewarded and protected those who were good. There was supposed to be a kind of one to one relationship between what you did and what was done to you. If you tithed, you'd never be poor. If you practiced abstinence, you'd marry a supermodel and have a rockin' marriage (and sex life). If you extended love and good deeds to others, love and blessings would come back "pressed down, shaken together and running over. . ." (Luke 6:38).

But of course life doesn't work that way. I tithed and was always struggling with money. I abstained but remained hopelessly single. I did my best to do good to others and then got my brake pads stolen. And that's why I was so angry in that blog entry. It's no fun learning that the theology that governed your behavior for so long was wrong.

Then again, the good thing about learning that you're wrong about something is that you can start to get it right. And that's what I did.

A few months after the angry rant, I put up this post where I came to this conclusion:

I realized that I could be kind and generous DESPITE the fact that it was a bad investment, despite the fact that it offered no yield. I could be kind and generous knowing full well that it would likely never come back to me, that it offered no guarantee of good friends, good jobs, good wife, not even a good reputation. I could be kind and generous as an act of sheer rebellion, as a subversive act of open aggression against a greedy, needy world. I could be the leader of a rebel force of one. I could strike out with guerilla attacks of random kindness. I sow the seeds of a revolution that seeks to overturn a world stuck in the trap of consumerism - where everything is seen as a transaction with one party profiting and another suffering a loss, where even free car washes are not really free car washes, where we are defined by what we own rather than what we give a way.

Yes, it's futile. Yes, I'm just one little man and my revolution of kindness will go unnoticed, ignored, perhaps even exploited by those who will take advantage of my cause. I acknowledge all those things, but I don't care. If I am just one tiny flame of light in a dark world, so be it. If I can allow the Kingdom of God to trickle into this fallen world through my life, I think that's as noble a cause as any.

It's mad, but it's beautiful. I just hope I'm up to the task.

Which brings me back to the thoughts at the top of this entry.

I don't believe in karma.

I don't believe that what goes around comes around, at least not in this present lifetime.

The person who stole my MacBook? He's probably done it before and he'll very likely do it again. He may never get caught.

Then again...

His life probably sucks. I mean, how bad must it be to go from place to place trying to take things, always being worried about being caught. What's it like to be living a life where you're always looking behind you? Maybe he's stuck in a cycle of addiction and needs to steal in order to soothe his angry fix. Maybe he lives for the high of the successful pull. Either way, there's no way I'd ever trade my life for his.

Me? I have friends who feel bad for me, who are offering to help in whatever way they can. And I suppose that's a whole lot better than being on the take and on the run.

And I have options. I've been trying to sell some things I don't use anymore on ebay and craigslist. If I get anywhere near asking price on a couple big ticket items (like my Felt racing bike that I'm finally admitting is too big for me), I'll have enough to get a new MacBook. Of course I was hoping to use that money to pay down some credit card debt in preparation for going back to school, but I should be thankful that I even have this option. A lot of people would just be SOL.

I'm fortunate in other ways as well.

I backed up that laptop about a month ago so I didn't lose all my data, and that's a HUGE plus.

And I'm glad that I'm put together in such a way that I understand that the laptop was just a thing and that I just don't have that thing anymore. I'm not all twisted up in a pretzel of anger or grief or jealousy. I'm not wallowing in self-pity.

You know, maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe things do come around - just not the same things. I probably never get my stolen MacBook back but I've got friends who are there for me. And maybe that guy has my laptop but I'm guessing he doesn't know what it's like to have friends who send consolation and support via Facebook comments and text messages.

All in all I suppose I'm actually a really lucky guy.

And maybe that's because of good karma.

1 comment:

FilmFrog said...

Lone Tomato Stand:

I see you no longer believer in karma. Well I'm here to tell you that karma exists and so do the karma police. I would know, I produced the movie titled KARMA POLICE.

KARMA POLICE is now available on DVD at Netflix, Blockbuster and Amazon (among others) and I hope that a non-believer can take a moment to watch the film. Even let us know what you think - www.karmapolicemovie.com.

The world's largest secrect organization, the Karma Police, recruit all-around good guy Charles West as their newest agent. The Karma Police ensure that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished by monitoring their behavior over time. As Charles begins doling out rewards and punishments, his involvement with the Karma Police becomes increasingly personal in more ways than one. He is responsible for judging the decisions and actions of others but who is judging him?

Brandon Jones