Asked, most of the class would express a belief in what one called ‘karma’.
“What is karma?” I asked.
“What goes around comes around”, one replied.
A belief in fairness in the cosmos; a belief that making the right choices would bring the right consequences; a belief in the power of freewill.
Reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial, there is an assertion that a choice had been possible; an oblique choice, but if K. had acted differently, then things might have turned out differently,
I was just caught unawares, that’s what happened. If I had got up as soon as I was awake without letting myself get confused because Anna wasn’t there, if I’d got up and paid no regard to anyone who might have been in my way and come straight to you, if I’d done something like having my breakfast in the kitchen as an exception, asked you to bring my clothes from my room, in short, if I had behaved sensibly then nothing more would have happened, everything that was waiting to happen would have been stifled. People are so often unprepared”.
Perhaps that is the problem; perhaps, in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, if poor Vladimir and Estragon and been better prepared, they would not have been trapped in an interminable inertia
Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be?
(Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He’ll know nothing. He’ll tell me about the blows he received and I’ll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can’t go on! (Pause.) What have I said?
Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern escape the inertia of their literary forebears, but they still end up dead. They are just part of a play where the lines have been written in advance; where the moment when the script could have been rejected passed before they were aware of it.
Our names shouted in a certain dawn … a message … a summons… there must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said-no. But somehow we missed it.
In lines omitted from The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien expresses a sense of the circularity of experience; a belief that Hell itself was just the absurdity of life lived again and again and again:
Joe had been explaining things in the meantime. He said it was again the beginning of the unfinished, the re-discovery of the familiar, the re-experience of the already suffered, the fresh-forgetting of the unremembered. Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable
Anyone sane rejects the fatalism of such fictional lines; we choose our own lives, write our own lines; live our own dramas. We do not believe ourselves trapped, yet, for Anglicans, church doctrine commits us to the belief that there is nothing we can do to change the ending of the play; church doctrine states that the closing scene is predestined. Article XVII of the Anglican Thirty Nine Articles of Religion states:
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
“A most dangerous downfall”; K, Vladimir and Estragon, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Joe would concur. But if it’s true; then the class are wrong and life is unjust and bleak.
Don’t know about cosmic justice, but if we assume for a minute that the concept of 6 degrees of separation is valid and that the observation that bad or impolite behaviour is catching (just see any traffic jam) then it wont take long for your own bad mood or bad attitude to come back to bite you, having spread out to come back through some social link in an unexpected fashion. I think good attitudes are also contagious, just less so, it takes more effort to spread good will in my experience, but it’s worth the effort. That’s how I model Karma personally. Typical engineer.
I’m not sure I believe in Karma any more than I believe in our inability to change things. I think both have validity. I can understand the concept of feeling ‘trapped’ tho. Getting out of that mindset has to involve conscious effort rather than cosmic help.