"I don't think they play at all fairly," Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, "and they all quarrel so dreadfully one can't hear oneself speak--and they don't seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them--and you've no idea how confusing it is..."
Today is Saturday, March 9, 2013.
In a job interview for a teaching position 27 years ago, I was asked, "What does 'fair' mean to you?" My answer was that people who perceive that they are getting the short end of the stick, whether the situation is real or imagined, will say that it's not fair. To me, that answer seems just as true today as it did when I gave it. The only thing that has changed is my thoughts regarding what, if anything, to do about it.
Once I came to understand and accept the concepts of karma and reincarnation as true, I realized that much of what many people consider "unfair" is actually much more fair than they think. Karma has been called the Law of Cause and Effect, or the Law of Action and Reaction, and it is very neatly expressed in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Everything we do, say, and think has an effect, whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes the effect is mainly on us, but most of the time there is also an effect on others. The effect may be immediate or delayed, and it's these delayed effects that make it hard to see cause and effect in action. For example, a woman in her forties wakes up one day and realizes that she's fifty pounds overweight. If she is like most others who have gained weight gradually, an honest look at her life will probably reveal that she has been eating too much, and that the foods she likes to eat tend to promote weight gain. She may find that she has been eating comfort foods to keep emotional issues at bay, or that she eats out of boredom. Further, she will probably realize that she has not been as physically active as her friends who have managed to avoid serious weight gain. The point is that over the years, she, herself, has chosen actions that have resulted in her body being fifty pounds overweight. Little by little, on a daily basis, she has made small choices that, altogether, have resulted in a condition that she now says she didn't choose. Did she wake up one day when she was a young woman and say, "I am going to be fifty pounds overweight when I'm 45"? No, of course not. But she did make choices. She ate cake and cookies when she could have had some fruit for dessert. She took the elevator instead of the stairs. She drove to the post office instead of walking, even though it was only five blocks away. She ate a whole bag of chips without thinking while reading a good book. She raided the fridge when she couldn't sleep at night. She sat in the shade while others played a game of baseball at the annual family reunion. The list goes on and on.
Why do things like this happen? You'd think everybody would realize that if you don't eat right and get daily exercise, your body will gain weight. And people do realize it - they just don't realize that it will happen to them. They say that we don't really learn a thing until we have to experience it for ourselves. Lifelong weight gain is one of those things. It's true that there is a definite difference between knowledge of a thing and the experience of it.
I found out about that difference when I had pulmonary embolisms. As I lay there struggling to breathe, I reflected that I knew in general what the term "pulmonary embolism" meant. I just didn't know how it felt, how much pain it would cause me, and what it would feel like to lose so much energy. I didn't know how much fear it would generate in me, or how helpless I could feel. That is, until I had the experience of it. Now I know.
Why do we have to endure these unpleasant experiences? One answer is that when we suffer unpleasant experiences, we become much more aware of the suffering of others around us, and we are therefore much more able to help. Another answer is that when we share an experience of physical pain or emotional agony, we are more apt to feel connected to all life; we can understand not only the pain of other human beings, but also the pain of members of the animal kingdom and even the plant kingdom. Certainly the experience can make us more sympathetic caretakers of other people, as well as better stewards the land. In that sense, we are better suited to be servants of God to all life.
Another answer to that question is that we are all creators on the relatively small scale of our own lives. We are creators because we, as Soul, are made up of the same building blocks of energy that our Creator is made of. We create what happens to our physical bodies (weight gain or loss, illness, wellness, muscle building, styling our hair, etc.). We create friendships and families. We create all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people. We create the events and circumstances of our lives. We learn that these creations of ours started in our thoughts, whether we were conscious of them or not, and we learn that we can make changes to our creations. We learn that it is easier to make changes early on rather than waiting until later. We learn that if we focus too much on worrying about negative consequences, we will end up experiencing some of those negative consequences.
Earlier I mentioned reincarnation. How does that fit into the picture? Recall that I also said that the effects of our thoughts, words and actions may be delayed - not just until after death, as many believe, but into future lifetimes. Soul is eternal, and It comes into the physical plane again and again, in lifetime after lifetime. Sometimes Soul interfaces with a male body, other times it interfaces with a female body. It interfaces with bodies of all races in one lifetime or another. By turns, It interfaces with healthy bodies and sick bodies; It is born into wealth and poverty, privilege and oppression.
All of our words, thoughts, and actions result in some kind of karma (reaction), either positive or negative. If our actions result in negative karma, this has to be balanced somehow. If it cannot be balanced in one lifetime, then the Soul must come back to the physical plane at a later time to balance it. This is partially why some people end up suffering so much just before they die. They are actually burning off as much of their negative karma as they can before they leave. The rest of the negative karma must be dealt with in a future lifetime. If the Soul is not strong enough to deal with it, the karma is held back until a later lifetime, when the Soul is capable of dealing with it. This is why people are born into all sorts of situations, many of which seem unfair when we look at them from the perspective of only one lifetime.
Suppose you were a Catholic priest who assisted Tomás de Torquemada in carrying out the dreaded Inquisition in Spain, which was responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Jews, Muslims, and even Christians who did not agree with Catholic dogma as it was sanctioned by the state, in the persons of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. In a later life, you might be a Jew who died in the gas chambers during the Holocaust, or you might be a Native American who was forced to give up his land, his language, and his religion on the say-so of white men. If in a lifetime in Egypt you were a rich landowner who beat his slaves and worked them to death, you might be born into a black slave family in the American South in the 1700s or early 1800s. Eventually, you will reap what you sew, in one lifetime or another. And why is this a better idea than simply sending Souls to eternity in hell for their misdeeds? Because when you are given another lifetime to make things right, you have the option of making changes, of learning right from wrong, and of moving forward, having turned over a new leaf. Obviously, since this process takes more than one human lifetime, it is impossible for people to watch it from beginning to end.
What about good karma? That has to be balanced, too, but it's much more pleasant. Good karma might come in the form of winning the lottery, being the first to invent something that makes you rich and famous, or simply living a happy, productive life among loving family and friends.
Going back to the question of what is fair and what is not, I would say that in general, life is fair in the sense that we get out of it what we put into it - and that includes what we have put into it in previous lifetimes. Does that mean we can't or shouldn't help people who are oppressed or being taken advantage of? Does it mean we mustn't raise awareness or take action when one group behaves in a manner that is unfair to others? Not at all!
When I started writing today's blog, I thought I would mention some of the things that I think are unfair, and why, but I can see now that this topic will take several days to cover.
To be continued... :-)