Chance and Karma

Law of Karma

Look, it’s not that I don’t believe in karma, or something like it. I know that actions have consequences. I don’t believe that the consequences people receive are always proportionate to their actions, but I suppose that’s a philosophical matter for debate.

I try to make it a point not to attack memes just because I disagree with them philosophically. If this meme were just about karma and going around and coming around, I’d give it a pass. Although I cringe a bit at the thought of referring to karma as a Universal Law, I’m even going to let that slide.

But these four words – “nothing happens by chance” – turn this whole thing rotten. What brand of ignorance is that? Chance is all around us! It permeates every single facet of our existence, from the sub-atomic world to the weather.

Any rational person makes decisions every day based not on concrete knowledge, but on probabilities. Do I need an umbrella? Should I bet on black? Should I wear a condom? But when you believe that nothing happens by chance – that there are no accidents – then you start to disbelieve in coincidences. You start to lose the distinction between careful consideration and planning – the positive inputs which should, karmically speaking, net you good results – and dumb luck. You become superstitious. Unrelated events take on special significance in your mind, and you lose some ability to make rational decisions.

I get why some people are disdainful of chance. We don’t like the idea that we’re not completely in control of our destinies. We need to understand how and why things happen. Unfortunately, the universe cares little for our need for certainty.

Let’s say you experience a fortunate turn of events; for example, you win a decent amount of money in a local lottery. How’s $100 sound? Good?

If you accept that things happen by chance, then you’ll understand how you got lucky. You bought a ticket at exactly the right time. You aren’t likely to duplicate the feat, and you would be foolish to waste more than $100 trying. Be thankful for your good luck and move on.

But if nothing happens by chance, then there must have been some karmic chain of events leading up to you being in the right place at the right time to purchase the winning lottery ticket. Furthermore, these events were set in motion by something you did…something you can repeat whenever you want to receive a similar reward. You enjoyed winning a portrait of Ben Franklin, didn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to retrace your steps and repeat your actions? You can’t recreate luck, though. You’ll waste a lot of precious time (and no small amount of money) on rituals that do nothing to increase your chances of winning more money.

I marvel at people who make statements as inane as “nothing happens by chance”. I can’t fathom how you can live in a world filled with unexpected pleasures and unpredictable horrors and think that it’s all because somebody had it coming.

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