We’re all here today because of mistakes we didn’t pay for. We’ve all dodged a thousand bullets to get to where we are today. And if we’re around next year, it’ll be because we dodged dozens more.
“Those who are in every other way worldly, cynical, and hard-boiled (Hollywood superstars and the like) reveal a truly bottomless gullibility when it comes to spirituality. Nobody is more otherworldly than the worldly, nobody more soft-centered than the hard-boiled. . . . The idea that spirituality is about visiting the sick and fighting injustice would no doubt strike these Kabbalists, necromancers, and chiropractors of the psyche as intolerably prosaic. . . . New Age religion . . . offers a refuge from the world, not a mission to transform it.”—Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution (2010)
Once, just once, I’d love to hear someone say “the Universe wants me to pay more attention to my kids” or “the Universe wants me to be a better friend.” Because you never hear anyone say “the Universe wants me to be a better mother” or “I think the Universe is trying to tell me to be less self-centered.” Instead, when you hear the phrase “the Universe is telling me . . .” you’re invariably about to hear about some selfish course of action that the speaker clearly wants to do anyway. For these people, “the Universe” is clearly a kind of cosmic enabler.
We’re all here today because of mistakes we didn’t pay for. As such, we should be far more forgiving of those who are forced by Fortuna to pay for their mistakes. We’ve all dodged a thousand bullets to get to where we are today. And if we’re around next year, it’ll be because we dodged dozens more.
For many things (such as reaping and sowing) the Law of Karma works well. For instance, if I punch you in the face, you probably won’t like me very much, and you might punch me back. But for others things, it’s murky (e.g., you can follow all of the DOs and DON’Ts of the health-conscious gurus, and still drop dead of a heart attack at 45; conversely, you can drink whiskey and smoke your whole life and yet die in your sleep at 90). Oh, and just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we live life in a stupidly careless YOLO fashion. That would be bad advice. And it would be hypocritical advice (since I don’t live my own life that way). I’m merely suggesting that we be a little bit more compassionate, and a little bit more humble.
Much as I’d like to, I just can’t bring myself to believe that life (or “the Universe”) is nearly as fair as the Law of Karma suggests. All to the contrary, I think the world we live in is a profoundly unfair place. As such, if we want the world to be a better place—if we want justice—we have to make it happen. We can’t passively sit back and wait for Karma or Divine Retribution to right every wrong and fix everything that’s broken. This is, I think, the true (and profoundly radical) meaning of Marx’s dictum: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Change in the world is often preceded by a change of heart. The great English Reformer John Bradford saw this with unusual clarity. That’s why he mouthed these words to himself so often: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.