What Did I Do To Deserve This?

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Do you believe in Karma? The principle of cause and effect. What goes around comes around. Do unto others and all of that. Do you think it’s true? Do you think that everything we do, say, or put out in the universe has an impact on our current lives and our future selves?

I could be wrong, but every culture and religious practice seems to have some version of this idea. We call it different things, add some layers, but at the core, it’s an ancient concept. It’s an idea that says our actions, how we treat someone else, will bounce back onto us like a boomerang of cosmic or spiritual kismet. 

Tempt fate, and it will return the favour. How that plays out depends on whether we’re naughty or nice. Is that true? Is fate a living entity that has the will and the power to doll out rewards or punishments?

Growing up, we called fate God, but it goes by many different names. I’m not sure if the name matters, but the idea is intriguing. Does God, Fate, Karma take our actions into account when it’s designing the course of our life? Do our pasts dictate our futures? Or, does it take into account our potential for improvement or even greatness?

I believe in Karma to a certain degree, but I also believe in a merciful God. A being that forgives us and, even if we can’t muster repentance, it can slowly work on our hearts if our hearts are willing. It’s a being that is gently, purposefully guiding us to the best version of ourselves. I believe in a deity that wants the best for us, and it will help us when we struggle or fall

But, I still ask why things happen to me and what I did to deserve this life. I’m a deeply flawed, weak person.

At least I have a foundation of faith that works for me, but I’m always searching for a deeper meaning. I ask too many questions. At least that’s what I was told when I was a kid. At church, the teachers in our morning classes stopped calling on me because I kept asking pesky questions like why, how come, or are you sure that’s right?

It’s called faith, they said and left it at that.

One of the reasons I left the church, and organized religion, was the pressure to blindly follow the institution’s interpretation of scripture. I was told that this is how faith works. To believe in God is to follow without question, but how can I have a genuine, honest relationship with God if I don’t actively pursue a connection with him/her/it? How can my relationship with God grow if I don’t engage? Submission, to me, doesn’t feel like a relationship. It feels like a master towering over a servant. How can a servant ever have a loving, deep, honest relationship with a master who demands blind allegiance?

Ah, but if the answers were readily available, then how could my faith grow? Without the challenge, an active search for knowledge, I think I would become complacent. My relationship with God would become stagnant. My need for divine guidance would whither, and my growth would cease. My life would become uninspired if I stopped questioning my faith, God, and searching through the spirituality of many different cultures and beliefs.

So I ask too many questions about God, Karma, and the role kismet plays in my life. Do these things play a role? Are they dependant on my belief, or do they happen regardless? Do I get a say in how they influence my life or, am I at their mercy?

Some questions, I just can’t answer because I’m just not enlightened enough to understand the complexities of such things. Others come down to personal experience and no small amount of soul searching. I can’t tell you to believe in anything, any more than you can do the same for me. Faith, spirituality is a deeply personal journey.

Which brings me to a disclaimer of sorts. These words are a part of my journey, my quest, for deeper understanding and a more profound relationship with the God I believe in. Please, don’t read any judgement in anything I say. If you believe in something different, then that’s something to celebrate. Our differences should be shared, not silenced. 

Cool? I’m going to assume you nodded and said cool. Now, we can get a little silly before asking more questions.

I was taking a walk down a memory avenue with a friend, and we were talking about how often Karma has bitten us on the butt. Or, they were times when hubris collided with coincidence, and we laid the blame on Karma. Karma is sitting there with its hands in the air, dumbfounded. Why do you people always blame me?

Do you think the devil asks the same question? The devil made me do it. No, don’t blame me for your dumbassery. That’s all on you! As is the time my behind got an almost literal introduction to Karma.

Vancouver, Canada, has one small, annoying thing about our landscape. Half of the city was built on hills. Mountains? No, they’re probably just hills that feel like mountains when it’s the middle of winter, and we’ve had sixty-two days of rain. Walking up feels like you are trying to casually stroll up a waterfall. One does not simply take a casual stroll up a waterfall! Nah, one fights the forces of nature with an ever-fading hope of triumph.

Sorry, I’ve been ingesting too much Tolkien. 

The only thing worse than going up is coming back down in a torrential downpour. Now, I love rain! The way drops patter against the window is a relaxing sound. Walking through it, even if it’s a wall of water, is so refreshing. I love rain, or maybe I’ve been living here too long, and I’ve developed a syndrome.

Years ago, this friend and I were walking down one of the many hills to get to the Skytrain (Subway). The rain was coming down in sheets of water. It felt like we were walking underwater, and we were soaked through to the bone. Naturally, we shrugged it off with a laugh because, again, we might have a syndrome.

In a moment of prideful stoicism, I explained that there was no reason to complain or grumble. Look at those people and their self-imposed misery! Why are they letting a little bad weather ruin their day? Come on people, what’s wrong with you? Dance in the rain like that guy in those old movies. Be happy, laugh, it’s all good as long as my butt stays dry.

The words were barely out of my mouth when Karma, or hubris, decided to have a chuckle. My feet hit a puddle, and down I went. Butt first into the water, but the indignity didn’t end there. No, we were on a hill in a downpour which meant, you guessed it, slip and slide.

I slid down that hill, on my now soaked rump, and in my path was Karma’s grand finale. A telephone pole was directly in my way, and I found myself straddling it at a dangerous angle. Luckily, I stopped myself before an egregious violation could occur.

Pride comes before a fall, they say, but I had to take it literally.

My friend, being the pal that she was/is, rushed to my side. Did she want to see if I was okay? Did she ask me if I needed help? No, she laughed uncontrollably and pointed out that Karma’s retribution can be swift. A swift kick in my ass, apparently.

To even things out, a few years later, she had a moment of her own. It involved a glass door and ill-timed boast. I, being the good friend that I am, stood over her and asked if she was okay. At least, I tried to ask, but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

Again, Karma reared its mischievous head and reminded me that my actions have consequences. Hours after The Incident we both ended up in the emergency room. My friend, with a severe concussion but, miraculously, her nose wasn’t fractured. I had an infection that came out of nowhere, and I needed intravenous antibiotics.

When our parents arrived, the look on their faces was priceless. Honestly, they can’t leave us alone for a minute. The only word they could muster was, “How?”

Well, Karma has a sense of humour, and it doesn’t always come after the big screw-ups. Sometimes it uses its powers to remind us that humility and compassion are precious virtues. It brings us down a rung or two when we’ve climb too high, look down on others, and laughing hysterically.

But what about the big things? The events that knock the air out of our lungs and bring us to our knees. A life-shattering diagnosis. A loss of a loved one. Living a life you never wanted while longing for a life you can’t have. What about those things? Do we blame Karma, God, or bad luck?

I, for one, find that having a powerful entity to blame is very comforting. It’s not about personal responsibility or accountability. If I’ve screwed up then I will face the consequences of my actions. I won’t like it, but actions have consequences. Newton’s Third Law taught us that.

Sometimes, though, things happen to us that are beyond our control or understanding. We do everything right! We follow all the rules and perform our spiritual practice to the letter. We pray. We’re kind. We treat people how we want to be treated. We do everything, but still, things go wrong and when it does?

That’s just the luck of the draw is not a concept I can handle with any degree of comfort. I ask what I did wrong in a past life, even though I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I search my memory for the transgression that warranted these consequences. When that fails, I blame God, Karma and I curse the fates because living in that uncertain space is unnerving.

But living in that space is what it means to be human, and that’s even less comforting. For me, to find comfort, I have to push past the blame, anger, and fear. I find comfort in the spiritual beings that I just cursed, because I need their guidance. It’s a strange dichotomy, but in that uncertain space, I need something to hold onto. Faith is that stronghold for me.

I believe in a God of love and mercy, which means that God isn’t out to get me. Karma, God, the Fates aren’t great oppressors but guides. Is that possible, or does it open up more questions about bad things?

I don’t know why God lets bad things happen, but if God is love, then God isn’t the one wielding the sword. He/she/it is the medic that rushes onto the battlefield with a medical kit and a stretcher. God tends to our wounds, holds our hands, and gets us through to the other side.

I’ve had to call an ambulance quite a few times, and all of those times were life or death moments. There’s nothing more comforting than the sound of those sirens approaching. The relief when those paramedics walk up and ask how they can help, is immense. That’s how I see God, in the moments when I don’t know what I did to deserve this life. 

Well, after I’ve blamed Karma and called God some unkind names. It’s a complicated relationship, but it is a comforting one for me.


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