Questioning Karma: when bad things happen to good people

December 23, 2007

I live in one of the more diverse state in the United States — New Jersey. And the creed of many my acquaintances reflect the same. I won’t lie to you. The conversation on the topic of religion more often than not actually ends on an uncomfortable note. We can’t agree on origin of life, we argue if certain actions are moral or immoral, and, of course, we believe our God(s) is more powerful than the others’.

The funny thing about these disagreements during our talks is that none of us are truly that religious to begin with. We just argue for argument sake — you know, to fill the time gap between downing “Coors Light.”

Regardless, though, of whatever religion we identify ourselves with, we usually don’t squabble about Karma — what goes around comes around. E.g.: do good for others, good things will happen to you, and vice versa.

But such a basic similarity of all beliefs creates doubt in my mind of existence of God (or necessity of religion) when I hear news of model citizens facing acts of violence from complete strangers. According to the rules of Karma, these unselfish individuals’ actions deserves the very opposite of such horrendous outcomes.

Take for example the case of psychologist Susan Barron, who was stabbed multiple times by a deranged man when she was walking her dog.

Screaming at her, the man chopped, hacked and stabbed her head and arms, straddling her after she fell to the street, picking up a new knife when he lost one from the force of his blows.

To those who witnessed it, the violence seemed to be a crime of toxic passion; they could not fathom the truth, that one total stranger had simply and suddenly set upon killing another. (NYT)

Of course, no one deserves this treatment. I wouldn’t want that to be a punishment for the terrible of crimes. But you will agree Barron, of all people, should be regarded as a saint on earth.

She was a fixer — the friend who hunted down a kidney for someone in need of a transplant, mentor to a man starting his own therapy practice, regular volunteer on winter coat drives and at holiday soup kitchens. “That Jimmy Stewart character in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ had nothing on her,” said one friend, a self-described cynic.

A case in the same sense takes place in Fort Qu’Appelle, Canada. Where 61-year-old Christina Cook gets shot at by young men when she attempted to dial 911. Only to witness her husband of 17 years catch the bullet on the face and chest when shielding his wife.

With a calmness that belies the calamity of the night and the enormity of her loss, a woman who would often open her home to troubled young people recalled Thursday how her companion of 17 years took a bullet she figures was destined for her and died while shielding her on the floor.

“I don’t know where my hubby came from, but he took me and he threw me on the floor and put his whole body over me. Next thing I know, he was gone,” Cook said. (CP)

The funny thing is that neither Cook nor Barron become bitter after the incidents.

“I just hope that they can find a solution to stop this gang violence or whatever the violence is that’s causing this because the children are lost,” Cook said.

“They need love and understanding and that’s what I’ve always tried to do with my life – make room for the kids.”(CP)

“Yes, I feel what happened to me is pretty terrible. People can complain about the smallest things, but that is their pain. Hopefully, they will never have something terrible happen to give them context,” Barron said. (NYT)

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4 Responses to “Questioning Karma: when bad things happen to good people”

  1. Baekho Says:

    This is a question that plagued people since the dawn of time. Very likely, there will never be “an answer” to it.

    However, something to consider:

    Is it worse to receive an injustice, or to commit an injustice?

    Something else to consider, perhaps:


    “And a woman spoke, saying, ‘Tell us of Pain.’

    And he said:

    Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

    Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

    And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

    And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

    And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

    Much of your pain is self-chosen.

    It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

    Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:

    For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,

    And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”
    (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet).


  2. Thanks for introducing me to Gibran.

  3. Baekho Says:

    Hey, my pleasure. :D

  4. Mike Says:

    I bought “The Prophet” at a psychology lecture I went to a few months back for two dollars. The best 2 bucks I’ve ever spent.


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