Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Let's talk a little bit about karma. It's a concept that runs through most major religions and deals with the ideas that you are responsible for your actions, and that such actions have a cause-and-effect relationship.

In the Christian faith, karma is probably best expressed by Galations 6:7-8: " ... whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

In the eastern versions, it gets a little complicated, and in those that deal with reincarnation, karma can get carried over from life to the next. If you do good deeds, they pay off; if you do bad, you get payback -- but either might not happen in this lifetime.

It is a comforting concept to somebody who has been screwed over, that whoever did it is gonna get theirs someday. I confess I'd rather see that happen sooner than later. Guy runs me off the road, I will be tickled to see him two miles up the highway pulled over and getting a big fat ticket ...

Unfortunately, gloating when somebody gets theirs only makes more bad karma for you. Actions cost more than words, and words more than thoughts, but you can get dinged for thinking, too.

Back when I was in high school, I dated a girl of whom I was much enamored. Let's call her "Linda." After half a dozen dates, I asked her to the senior prom.

Alas, she was not quite as taken with me as I was her, and her answer was, "Let me think about it."

Those of you who have been in high school know immediately what this really means: "Let me see if somebody better asks me."

Rather to hear "Piss off and die!" than "Let me think about it ..."

I was not pleased, no way, no how, no sir.

Several weeks passed, with me twisting in the wind. Linda suddenly became too busy to talk to me. Her dance card filled up, no weekends were vacant. I had been given my marching papers, and like Dylan said, you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the winds blows ...

I was bereft.

After my dark depression lifted somewhat -- nobody likes to be dumped --I resolved to cut a swath through the best-looking -- yeah, that was me, Mr. Superficial -- best-looking girls in school, to date all who would have me. I made a list of the top ten. Most of them had boyfriends who played football, but that didn't deter me.

Fortunately, I must have earned some good karma in a previous life. The first girl I picked, the best-looking and smartest one of the bunch, said yes. And that was as far as I got on the list.

We have been married for forty-one years.

But back to karma:

The young lady who put me on hold faded in memory quickly after I hooked up with the woman who would someday own me body and soul. Poof, dust in the wind. Or down in Louisiana, perhaps mud in the swamp would be more accurate.

Shortly before the senior prom Linda called me. "So, I guess you have somebody to take to the prom, huh?"

"Oh, yes."

There was a long pause. "Oh."

I was so righteous in my thought: Hey, you had your chance. What the hell did you expect?

We hung up. I had a warm glow inside.

Come the prom, Linda showed up with a guy from another school. Happened that I knew him, and found out that she had asked him. This, of course, was simply not done back in my day, the boys always asked. Oh, now I really felt smug. See? See what you get? I didn't have clue what karma was, but I liked what it was doing for me.

During the prom, Linda came over. Asked me to dance. We did. She was on the edge of tears. "I should have said yes when you asked," she said.

I said nothing. Yes, bitch, you should have. Too bad.

Seventeen-year-old boys are, by and large, fools and ne'er-do-wells, I was no exception. I was so smug. Served her right and -- snapping his fingers -- that for you, Linda! Small cruelty, not like torturing somebody, but a cruelty nonetheless.

School ended, we went out into the world, and I didn't see Linda until our 25th class reunion. She had moved off to New England somewhere, gotten married had kids, and we had a chance to visit. I didn't bear her any ill will; after all, had she accepted my invitation in 1965, I might never have asked my wife out, and boy, wouldn't that have been a different road? If anything, I owed her, big-time. But it takes experience to see such things. I can't claim to be wise, but life has knocked a few of the sharp corners off, yessir. You live long enough, you learn stuff.

I think I've paid that particular bit of smug karma off -- there are a couple events that resonate that way, and they stung. But, given what I got?

Such a deal. Such a deal ...


Dean Pennington II said...

Speaking of Karma, one must be careful.

To extrapolate possible pasts---

Linda counted herself a lucky girl! She finally had a young man that enjoyed her company for her. He wasn't always trying to get down her pants, as so many others boys did. He was sweet and gentlemanly. His kisses were passionate as well.

Senior prom was coming up. Saving money for a dress had been so hard. Mom and Dad just couldn't afford it right now, they had that unexpected debt...

Steve keeps calling to go out. He doesn't know that I am working for Mr. Johns. I think I will just make enough to buy the dress that I have been eying for months now. I know Steve will understand when I tell him why I couldn't go out. I am just to embarrassed to chance it now.

I have lost my chance. Steve has found another to go with him to the prom. I finally got the dress. The prom looming next week. I know he will understand why I didn't call...

I was embarrassed by not having money! To embarrassed to call.

Now sorry.


Steve Perry said...

Nah. I knew LInda's situation, and that wasn't anywhere close. (She liked to party, and hands-down-the-pants didn't bother her.)

She truly was hoping for somebody higher up the food chain. She rolled the dice and they came up how they did.

I don't begrudge her that -- she was seventeen, too -- but it was a small school, everybody knew everybody, and word always got around.

Dean Pennington II said...

Of course there is always that!

Anonymous said...

It's weird how these things happen sometimes. I had a baby at 22 with a man I wasn't well suited for, but when one has a baby, one tries to make the best of it, as long as one can. Having the baby made me get serious about school and I graduated college at 24. I got a job where they only hire smart people (IQ tests) but then was thrown into an unfamiliar situation. The Big Boss didn't like my confusion and I got fired, but while I was there, I learned how to research people on the Internet. I "researched" old high school friends, and hung out with a few of them. My relationship with my baby's father fell apart, and one of the old friends was attracted to the determination I showed finishing college (full time school, full time work, and baby = not easy). Other things were good as well, but I believe those two failures (baby too soon and lost job) led to an incredible marriage.

A friend told me about a story were the whole point is "Who knows what is good or bad," and my experience smacks of that.


Kai Jones said...

Trying to work your way up the food chain...I'm pretty sure I read an article recently that used that to explain why "all the good men are taken." The article theorized that because mostly men do the asking, but women give the hint that they are receptive to a marriage proposal, women mostly control who gets married. Women with higher value (or who think they have) hold out for a better man, women with lower value accept a proposal from a reasonably valuable guy early. What's left? High value women and low value men, so the women all complain that there's no good men left (they're all already married) and the men (who are the low-value guys that were rejected earlier in the process) complain that what's left won't go out with them.

Dan Moran said...

90% of the women want 10% of the men, and vice versa. If you're fortunate enough to be in that 10% on either side, life is good. That's not karma, just luck and a little hard work.