Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When Bad Things happen to Bad People

"Why do bad things happen to good people?" is a question we hear all the time.  Somehow you never seem to hear the inverse, "why do bad things happen to bad people?"  Why is that?  Sure we seem to get upset at the success and prosperity of the wicked but we rarely feel sorry for their misfortune.  But the thing is, bad things happen to good and bad people (as do good things), it's just that we don't consider bad things all that bad when they happen to people we consider evil.  When that happens we prefer to think of it as justice.

It seems that the idea that we cause our misfortune by our own actions* is as deeply ingrained into our psyche as the idea that we can somehow control the universe by saying and doing the right things.  I recently wrote a post explaining why I reject the latter and by that reasoning I should also reject the former.  And I do.  But believe me, it's not easy.  Especially when you read a story like this:

"ALAMEDA -- Harold Camping, the Doomsday radio preacher who sparked international media attention by predicting the end of the world last month, has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his Alameda home Thursday night.

The 89-year-old radio evangelist and president of the Oakland nonprofit Family Radio was taken by ambulance from his house Thursday night, a neighbor said, but his well-known, gravelly voice that led many believers to donate millions of dollars to his cause may never be the same.

"He had a stroke, it was on his right side," said the neighbor,"


I freely admit that I would love to agree with the many internet commentators who call this stroke a just punishment for a false prophet.  Thing is when I gave up trying to control the world and accepted that I live in a random and often chaotic universe I also gave up on the idea of karmic justice.  The world is rarely fair and not everyone gets what they deserve.  It sucks but then again, from time to time I have been grateful not to receive my comeuppance so there's that.  I like the local term for karma/the hand of fate, namely the "blinde sambok" (blind sjambok).  Granted for most people that describes someone getting their just desserts but I like the image of a blindly wielded whip it conjures.  Anyone can get hit, at some point everyone does and some people get hit more than they should be and others not as many times as they probably deserve.  Doesn't sound very comforting, I know, but it's actually a load off your mind once you realize you are not responsible for every piece of misfortune that comes your way.

Besides, real justice would be for Harold Camping to live long enough to see the world not end in October!

*Just for the sake of clarity, I'm talking about causing our misfortune in the sense of Karma.  Not talking about doing event A which directly leads to logical outcome B, I mean the way we tend to mystically connect outcome C with utterly unrelated action S.   For instance I don't mean it in the sense that you caused your nose to be broken because you flirted with a Rugby player's girlfriend.  I mean it in the sense that you think you "caused" the cold you got on your birthday by not calling your mom on Mother's Day.

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