Karma Has No Deadline

I wish to take something badly out of context. In large part because I have no idea what the context is, and so wild speculation is practically invited. If this speculation has any relevance it is simply that any concept bordering on anything religious is a target.

The inspiring quotation (as it were) is ‘karma has no deadline’, and depending on one’s initial impression of that concept this could seem fairly benign. That type of impression goes along with a certain tendency to view karma as more a comforting idea than otherwise. It has no deadline. One does not risk passing the point at which the karmic blanket is removed from your frail form.

And I use ‘karma’ in a broad sense. Simply the idea that there is some form of cause and effect in which actions result in consequences in a more wide-ranging sense than your typical billiard balls colliding example. Generally with an ethical slant. As usual, sophist exegeseis could always define themselves into untouchable nooks of definition, but the more restricted, rarefied and specialist they become, the further removed from any actual use or (for want of a better word) understanding there is of the concept.

Karma is a bizarre concept, coming as it does from a worldview with a central idea of evaluation, perhaps even justice, which is other than the anthropomorphic varieties found in the Abrahamic religions. Which is not to say those religions are not bizarre, of course. But this is a peripheral criticism: if such belief systems took the time to try and explain exactly was going on they would talk themselves out of existence. That is, the only sense of existence they actually have.

My main criticism of the concept, and which lends the above quotation a truly sinister aspect, is that it implies that everything is deserved. Those who karma (or that whatever-the-hell does the approval via karma) deems worthy eventually get off the mortal/material ride and bid goodbye to the inevitable suffering of corporeal existence. Those who don’t… Well, that is the point. They recede from nirvana; they endure less bearable modes of existence.

An insipid complacency is invited through this whole idea. The idea that everyone’s present mode of life is, to whatever extent, deserved. Investment in the whole idea contains a commitment, on some level, no matter how one may feel motivated to act in accordance with local virtue, to thinking the wretched people you help deserve their plight.

Karma has no deadline. It never expires. Everything sick, blighted, afflicted and twisted is deserving of this only. The only option to mitigate is to follow the rules of the system which has cursed them.

Even the outwardly cuddliest religiously/derived concepts are invariably inverted expressions of despite.

Optimus Slime

I am motivated by a thought met in passing during a read of Nietzsche’s incendiary ‘The Anti-Christ’ to briefly revisit an old story or myth everyone has heard of, and that everyone has failed to understand.

The story is that of Pandora’s Box. What everyone knows about this is that the box contained all the evils of the world, and when it was opened they escaped into the world, and all that was left behind was hope. We use this story, the opening part anyway, to mean an action with disproportionately severe consequences. Fair enough. What we don’t seem to question is the sense that this retention of hope is a good thing. Multifarious evils now abound in the world, but so long as we have hope it isn’t as bad as it could be.

But this was a box of nothing but evils. It wasn’t a box of everything. Hope, the ancient Greeks could understand, is potentially a horrible evil. In one sense it must connote something negative. Those who hope, with real fervour or desperation, are those in the worst straits. The content, those who have what they need to want, don’t hope with any conviction, for they have no reason to. But this is a fairly banal and low-level form of harm endemic to hope. There can be much worse.

Banal hopes can be satisfied, their objects can be met and the hope, and its attendant misery, can be removed. Not so with all hopes, especially the hopes that are so vast and so precious to most of us.

It was the Anti-Christ that I was reading, after all. There are certain hopes which even if we do not naturally feel the need to possess them, can have them inculcated. We hope for meaning, we hope for continuation (fear of death), we are even made to hope for redemption (when made to believe we are sullied simply for being). And in religion, Christianity especially, the placement of those hopes, their source, their conclusion, is beyond the very fabric of the world. It is hope hyped to astonishing levels and stripped of all potential for achievement. And yet hope is taken almost universally as a great good. Something so blindingly good no one questions its inclusion in a box of all evil.

 Nietzsche made much of the inversion Christianity achieved with many such concepts. As the story about the Greeks indicates, they had no such conception of hope. They understood that to hope was to suffer. They would also have understood that to take up hope and place it eternally out of reach, to strand every person in an unending state of unsatisfiable helplessness, was comically perverse. But even gallows humour draws a line upon realising how an evil has become a good.

And not only one. And not only in that direction. But perhaps they each in turn will have their moment.