Monday, November 26, 2012

Karma for postmodernists

I often think about the popular saying 'What goes around comes around'. Take the supernatural elements of Karma away, and you're left with a very basic principle: The kind of energy you send out into the world affects the kind of energy you will receive from the others around you. If you smile at a stranger on the street, you're likely to get a smile back. If you glower and shake your first, people will mimic you as a way of relating. Your kindness/anger inspires their kindness/anger.

When you seek to hurt someone, you are operating from a place of hurt. The negativity which you wish to transfer onto someone else is already festering inside, wreaking all sorts of havoc on your system. You think it'll be better once you're done hurting your target, but you actually make it worse. Others' happiness, or lack of it, impacts our own. It's a vicious cycle.

What's better than two people who reinforce each others' hurt? People who reinforce each other's feel-good tendencies. To love and care for another person is to love and care for yourself. Altruism is a most 'selfish' act. If you receive hurt, try not to pass it on. Draw upon your reserve of good feelings instead. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. You're likely to get the sentiment back and more, thereby ensuring that the chain of hurt ends with you, and you've begun something entirely new to counteract it (either directly or indirectly). The lucky person who was treated nicely by you will go out into the world with renewed purpose to pay it forward.

A win-win situation is always around the corner.

There has been a lot of research on how societies with a comparatively low level of income inequality make for happier, closely-knit communities where there is a high level of trust between the citizens. It turns out that, even if you're part of the 1% (of people who own the highest degree of wealth) in, say, Chicago, you are still as affected by the same high level of crime and low level of community spirit as a homeless person. You can't insulate yourself from the rest of the city, because we're all interconnected. Your extremely high level of economic privilege is the result of someone else's extreme disempowerment. But what if you are both on the same socio-economic level, on even footing, sharing the resources as equals? The walls collapse and you become free to connect, knowing that you share the same values: a dedication to the collective well-being. 

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