Karma and Jedi Mind Tricks

This is/is not the blog you’re looking for.
By Elizabeth Cutright

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about karma and the African proverb Isak Dinesen quotes in Out of Africa, “When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.”

I can think of many (many!) times in life when a prayer left unanswered saved my sanity (and probably saved my life). We often don’t know what’s best for us, and the silent blessings of unfulfilled wishes can be difficult to see through the thick haze of disappointment. It can be a cold comfort to think “perhaps I’m better off” when the anticipated “yes” is upended by the deliberate “no.”

I believe that the universe is an intricate web, with individual strands overlapping and enmeshed with such complexity and precision that we can never hope to unravel all the connections and consequences. In other words, sometimes things happen for reasons we cannot trace or anticipate. You may have really wanted the thing you didn’t get, and that denial is not necessarily a reflection on your value as a person or what spoils you may (think) you deserve.

I clearly see how the preceding paragraphs smack of rampant rationalization (what was it Jeff Goldblum’s character says in the Big Chill about rationalizations being as important as sex?). It could very well be true that we live in a cold, capricious world full of random acts and misallocated rewards. You may never get what you deserve ( and that’s probably a good thing), and you may watch in dismay as the assholes of the world pass you by, their arms loaded with goodies. But if we’re all flotsam tossing and floating in the waves of fate, then we can’t take it personally. Luck is NOT a Lady ( just ask Sky Masterson), and hoping and praying has no real currency.

Where does writing fit into all of this? Well, if you’ve been a diligent diarist or kept a fairly consistent journal, a look back at old entries may be all the proof you need that your better off with some dreams left unfulfilled. Read all about that desperate crush and how you thought you’d die if you didn’t end up together, think about where he or she is now, and thank your stars your lives diverged ( and if that old lover is now a famous movie star or Internet billionaire, take heart – you wouldn’t really want to live in that kind of spotlight anyway, right?). Revisit the jobs you didn’t get or the rejection letters you received, and reconsider those goals while pondering Joan Harris’s (Mad Men) remark, “sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were.”

And if those old “dear diaries” fill you with regret and frustration, then perhaps it’s time to stop and recalibrate your headings. Maybe now’s the time to change course and find your true path.

Writing is also therapeutic. Whenever I’m confronted with disappointment, I feel better after I write all out. After a few whiny sentences, I almost always end up hatching new dreams and drawing up new strategies.

Right now I’m caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected challenges. I’m a bit chagrined at how surprised I’ve been by the narcissism and inconsideration some people seem to cultivate with the kind of care and energy normally devoted to a rare hothouse flower. I’m amazed at actions instigated with no regard for the consequences. As someone who perhaps deliberates in excess, I am dazed by the supreme selfishness I’m witnessing.

But I’m coping. I’m writing it all out. I’m sculpting plans of action. I’m indulging in fantasies of petty revenge, lapping up the indignation and outrage of friends and family, and (trying) to take comfort in the knowledge that it all evens out in the end.

After all, karma can be an unpredictable bitch…you’d better treat her nice.


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