Monday, November 01, 2004
The one thing that all religions in the world have in common is the promise of retribution. Many have theorized that the reason for this is to establish stable theocracies. It's easy to keep a congregation in line with the fear of God. It's a time-tested method that hasn't failed. Think of any of today's theocracies. Think of the trouble the most powerful nation in the world is having trying to tear one down.
I tend to disagree. I will concede that theocracies are so effective because they utilize existing fundamental fears. However, I do not think that those fears were established by the party in power in order to exert control. The problem here is that of directionality. I purport that the fear was there to begin with and some politically minded people thought to exploit it, not that the fear was put into place for the purposes of exploitation. This entry has got nothing to do with how people's beliefs are twisted against them. It's about why those beliefs are in place and why I, too, believe in them.
Conventional wisdom (which is usually the starting point for the establishment of most knowledge) is rife with assurances that the bad will be punished. My favourite example (least of all because I'm Chinese) is the 18 levels of hell. Not only will you be punished for your deeds on earth, but that the punishment will fit the crime, in a horribly twisted, damn near eternal sense. It's gratifying and way more so than the Christian concept of hell, where everyone is boiled in brimstone for eternity, thief and paedophile alike. The only problem with this is that it's not very swift. You have to wait for the person in question to die. You can't exactly go and kill said offender, because that would make you a murderer and regardless of your motivation, it puts you in a very undesirable karmic position. Plus, you don't get to watch this in action, because the deserving asshole would not be in the same dimension as you are. This is both a pro and a con. Pro: If you see the guy point-blank getting away with his/her actions to his/her dying day, you can rest assured that he/she will not get away with it for eternity. Quite the opposite, really. Con: No one has ever been able to prove that any of this actually
happens on account of our current inability to travel between planes of existence. It's not a very significant con though, because the belief that it's happening is usually enough to tide you over. At least until you die too and discover whether or not you were right.
When I was wronged as a teenager (having recently turned 20, I can use the phrase "as a teenager"...) I remember allowing the experience to turn my world upside down. I wanted revenge, I wanted it now. In the throes of hormonal flux, I would not allow myself to be appeased unless something happened right here, right now
(I said nowwwwwww
). Even though my hormones are no longer at puberty's whim I still find myself looking for instant gratification. (Hunt him down and cut off his balls! Then make it into curry and feed it to him while he's hungry, over rice that has been cooked too long! NOW!) Every time I find myself looking for something to happen right away in order to compensate for the fact that I too have been harmed in the here and now I think about what my maternal grandparents used to tell me to quell my tantrums. "It will be taken care of". Young and impudent, I challenged them. Refusing to merely accept, I demanded empirical truth. "Jo, we are much older than you. It means that we have seen more things. That is why we know." I took that to mean that because they have been on this earth five times longer than I have, they have thus been able to observe things over time: one of my obvious limitations at say...age 13. They then proceeded to tell me stories about people in their lives who purposefully and maliciously made life unneccessarily difficult for others (the best operational definition I have ever come across for "wrongdoing" btw) and what happens to them down the road.
The most dramatic story that my grandparents have ever related is the story of my grandad's step-mother. You couldn't find a nastier woman in all the fairy tales in the world. Her actions would qualify as extreme physical and mental abuse (of her husband's first wife's children) under even the loosest child protection laws. It left some significant scarring on my grandad too. The reason this story is so dramatic, however is that I had the chance to see this woman in her old age. That is, until she wandered off one day from her home and was never found again. When I knew her, she was suffering from acute dementia. I would go into detail but so much about her I have learnt second hand and my childish ruminations might have exaggerated the facts so I could be wrong on several counts. What I do know to be true however, paints a rather vivid picture of what hell on earth could be like for an individual. It does not stop with her, however. Her offspring are by no means the most successful bunch on earth. Some even have criminal records. (Think about the population of Singapore, then think about the low crime-rate. We don't have all that many criminals, her children are among the few). Had the people she wronged brought about all this misfortune? Of course not, no one is this powerful. (FYI her husband's first wife's children are doing pretty damn well for themselves) In fact, if they had tried to take revenge on her, their efforts would hardly have resulted in anything this potent.
My great-grandmother (recently deceased) had another wise saying to contribute: "If the money isn't yours, it will not stay with you". Implied is that if something is
yours then it will be yours despite everything. I believe that this applies not just to money but to a range of things from the tangible to the intangible. The bottom line here is not to worry about your haves and have not because your own efforts alone will not allow you to retain anything. Your efforts will certainly allow you to acquire assests, the means through which you have acquired them might even translate into your ownership of said assests (i.e. they are yours in the cosmic sense because you have earned them in some cosmically acceptable way) but retention of those assests are beyond the realm of your influence. How does this translate into the big theory of retribution? Easy. If someone takes from you something that is yours, it is not theirs. Therefore, it will not bring them benefit, they will not be able to retain it in any way, shape or form. That is why I've always believed that if you are angry with someone, destruction of property is the way to go. That way you have hurt the person but you have not taken anything away from it that might constitute as personal gain. No karmic paper trail, in essence. If you steal from someone however, it's an entirely different story. To harm another for the sake of harming them is one thing. To harm another for the sake of personal gain is much, much worse. It is worse precisely because this principle can and often is compounded with the principle in the above paragraph resulting in this:
a) Your loss &ne his/her gain
b) His/her offensive actions = cosmic retribution
The point here is that this belief that a higher power will even out the universe is so universal because it empowers those that have no recourse against bastards, assholes, cocksuckers, et al. It is empowering because it does not require that the victims of crimes have to alter their own karmic record to return the wrong that has been inflicted on them. It is empowering because it the result of having a higher power sort it out is beyond anything a mere mortal can accomplish through even the most extreme and focused effort. It is because it is empowering that I believe in it and I invite everyone out there to do the same. Some cultures even believe that focusing negative energies on their offender helps exacerbate and sometimes accelerate the work of the karmic police. I think that you waste your time and destroy bits of yourself when you dwell on negative thoughts. Then again, when it so happens that you are so angry about it that it will take some time to stop thinking about it, you might as well focus your thoughts while you have them. Like calling 911 on the cosmic touch-tone phone, perhaps.
posted by Joie! at