It’s been said that being human is a unique gift, since it allows us to choose wisely, so that we can change our karma. Looked at in this way, time is a gift. Therefore, choice is also a gift. Without any of these – our humanity, our free will, and the reality of time – we cannot change.
But what about karma itself? Is there really such a thing? I’d hate to be the one to go against thousands of years of philosophy, religion, metaphysics and spiritual practice, but the question needs to be asked. Strictly translated, karma means ‘action or act.’ In its broader and more commonly understood meaning, it’s an axiom which refers to spiritual cause. The behaviors and thoughts of a being are assumed to have an effect on that being’s destiny. Karma, in its most broadly understood sense, can effect an individual in this life, or in the life into which one is reborn. Now, there are many differing views on karma, and it is a wide concept. I’m not here debating its meaning, but only its possibility.
Of particular interest to me is the relationship of karma to time. At the risk of oversimplifying, karma is cause and effect on a metaphysical plane. Cause and effect have their validity in time. If I wash the car now, it will rain tomorrow. Because I ate pizza last night, I’ll feel like shit in a couple hours (you’d have to be 58 to understand).
Yet what if time itself were illusory? What then? Then nothing that we do here has any lasting effect, because nothing has changed since the beginning. It can be likened to a rubber ball that you bounce against a brick wall out in a parking lot, one of my favorite pastimes as a boy. With the law of karma, the ball comes back to you (if your aim’s any good. Otherwise, it ends up in Mrs. Schroeder’s rhubard again, and you ain’t getting it back). Yet without time, there is no cause and no effect, so when you toss the ball against the wall, it doesn’t bounce back. Both karma and cause and effect are founded on the validity of time.
Now, here, on earth, and throughout the universe as we know it, time is an essential element. There is cause and effect because there is time. And that menas that there is karma. If I do something constructive, I can expect something positive in return. If I do something destructive, I invite some sort of destruction, in exchange. It’s not a 1:1 correlation, but you get the idea.
What I’d like you to do is think of your life like a dream, like in the song Row Row Row Your Boat. When you dream, there are bodies, and objects, and actions and words. There is cause and effect, sometimes. The world in your dreams isn’t exactly like the waking world, so cause and effect are sometimes distorted and at times suspended in dreams. Yet overall, dreams resemble your waking reality. But here’s the kicker. When you wake from your dream, there are no causes. There are no effects. There’s no karma for what happens in your dream. Nothing in the dream has ever left its source. So you don’t pay a price for what you dream. You don’t go to jail or get a divorce or go broke, and no, you’re not late for that flight. And if you’re unprepared for your exam you don’t fail the test in real life, and you’re not naked on a stage, in front of an audience of supermodels. OK, now you know all my nightmares.
Yet everything in the dream seems real while you’re dreaming it. In most dreams, we think the stakes are real while we’re dreaming. We think that it’s truly happening, that there’s a price to pay for what we and others do. We feel real fear and real anger and experience joy and happiness with that supermodel. Until we wake up.
Here’s my question: what if the world around you, right here, right now, was just another level of the dream? Then everything – the stakes, all the consequences, all the pain and suffering and mainly, all the terrible things we’re afraid of – are meaningless. What if nothing you accomplish here means anything? What if nothing you acquire means anything, and nothing you do wrong has any enduring effect at all?
This a very difficult assumption to accept, because we really really want our lives here to matter. We think we’re important, and that what we do and don’t do is consequential. We want our selves here to mean something. We want what we do to make a difference. We want our lives to have an impact. In fact, we want these things so badly that sometimes, we don’t even care if we make a positive impact on the world, or a negative one. As long someone notices us. As long they pay attention. We want to be somebodies, to be somethings so bad, that we even invented a dream called hell where some of us go because of the bad things we did. Why? Because the somethingness of hell is better, we think, than nothing at all. We want the dream to be real.
But if nothing you do here matters one way or the other once you wake up (if you’re following me, that means once you croak), there’s a plus side to it. If nothing you do here matters, then there’s no reason to get excited. No reason to be afraid or angry or depressed. If all this is a dream, then it ain’t no big deal, is it? If life is but a dream, then you get to learn to abide by the only law there is, to follow the only commandment there is, and to ‘sin’ without fear of punishment by falling in violation of the only rule there ever was. And it is this: Don’t take yourself or anything else so damned seriously.
So, if we assume this world is all bullshit,, and by that I mean illusion, then look at the upside to it. You can relax, have some fun, and above all, lower your expectations a little (no, a lot). You’re just not that important. And either is anything you do or leave undone. At the end of your life, when you’re on that deathbed, whatever it is that you’re doing or thinking or worrying about right now? Trust me, you won’t be thinking about it then.
So, don’t take yourself so seriously. And have fun.
© 2019 by Michael C. Just
Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.
You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+dirt+journey+of+a+mystic+cowboy&crid=1S40Q4BXSUWJ6&sprefix=the+dirt%3A+journey+of+a+m%2Caps%2C180&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_23
Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002LFMXAW