Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Boomerang Vs. The Ripple Effect

Life isn't always like this.  Which is too bad.

People talk a lot about karma.  And when they talk about karma, often they use the concept in a way that’s not totally accurate or complete.

Most times, when you hear the word karma, the person is talking about results that flow back to you from an action you’re taking, something you’re saying, or even a thought you’re having. 

Certainly, there’s plenty of truth to this.  If you consistently put out negative actions or messages, there is a very good chance that negative results will flow to you.  If you consistently put out positive messages or actions, there’s an excellent chance positive results will return.

People sometimes take this observable fact, and decide that there’s a perfect accounting system at work in the universe, rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. 

It’s as if you throw a giant boomerang, then it circles around, comes back and hits you with the exact type of energy you sent out, often multiplied in force.

It would be nice if this were always true.  But the boomerang doesn’t always find its mark.  The accounting system is somewhat flawed.  The accountant is bad at math. 

I’m sure we can all think of people who have hurt others, either in our own lives or in history, who somehow escaped the payback they seem to have richly deserved.

Josef Stalin is someone who got away with murder.  Not just once or twice.  On a massive scale.

Take Josef Stalin.  Please. 

As the dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of up to 9 million people.  

These came from executions, deaths in the gulag prison system, and starvation, both deliberate and as the result of mismanagement. 

He would order the execution of thousands of people on a whim, by the stroke of a pen.  He’s easily among the worst people who have ever lived.

He was also married twice, had at least half a dozen children, many mistresses, was an avid reader (by all accounts, he read hundreds of books), and valued close friends and family. 

Unlike his mortal enemy Adolf Hitler, Stalin didn't kill himself after witnessing the total collapse of his society, hiding underground like a rat, all his dreams turned to dust, and enemy troops swarming above his head. 

Stalin died of a sudden series of strokes at the age of 74 (basically, he died of old age), while still ruling one of the two most powerful nations on Earth.  He lived a perfectly normal lifespan – indeed, longer than the typical Soviet citizen of the era.

No one murdered him.  No one tortured him.  If he suffered, it was only for a few days.  Even now, he is revered by millions of people as the great hero of World War II, who led his people in the defeat of the Nazis, and who build the Soviet Union into a world power.

The boomerang just never found Josef Stalin.

Meanwhile, I’m sure we can all think of good people who got walloped by the boomerang, and didn’t deserve it.

So what’s another way to think about karma that might be more complete?

It's not the most original idea in the world.  Okay.  So what?  It's still valid.

The Ripple Effect

Karma is like the ripples on a lake, after you throw in a stone.  The results of your actions ripple out in every direction, through time and space. 

A few of those ripples come back to you on the shore.  But most of them radiate away from you, affecting people and events for a long time afterwards.

As a result, we have immense power, in our daily lives, to create ripples that radiate outwards, sparking even more ripples. We are karma machines, for good or ill.

A kind word, a moment of deep listening and empathy, some little generosity, all of these things are good karma.  Indeed, they are like little messages of love. 

If we’re mindful, we see that opportunities to send these messages arise all the time.  It costs us nothing (or almost nothing), but it can make another person’s day.

Perhaps more powerfully, our good karma sets an example for others to follow.  People (especially children) witness our actions.  Our generosity sends them a message that it is good to give, that we live in abundance, that there is plenty for everybody. 

Our willingness to listen tells them that people are important.  Our good deeds show them that there is a wider world we must care for.

At first blush, these might seem like small things, but small things can and do become big things.  Do these types of actions create good results for us?  You bet they do. 

But they do even more – they help create the kind of world we want to live in.

The ripples of karma, good or bad, have a way of becoming gigantic waves.

Words of Wisdom:

“The five minutes of kindness you showed her is going to help thousands of others.  And that only takes into account the past day.  Despair and pain were averted.  Loss and tragedy thwarted.  Do you think you haven't struck a blow for the light, Warrior?”

- Jim Butcher

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