November 11, 2009

Reward and Punishment

Today over on the Shambhala Sun blog comedian and writer Doug Shear muses on karma after his unfortunate experiences in saving people from drowning. The first time he got attacked by a stray dog and not thanked my the child in question and the second time he was yelled at by a lifeguard and again not thanked by the young lady he helped.

"But I’m as confused as ever. Is it true that what goes around comes around? Or is it true that no good deed goes unpunished? Is there a loophole in the Law of Karma?" he writes.

Karma isn't there to reward our good deeds, or even punish our bad deeds. Karma is, in fact, completely neutral. Actions causing actions completely devoid of good and bad distinctions. However, the cause and the effect are inextricably linked, one often has the characteristics of the other. Thus suffering begets suffering and happiness begets happiness. Don't laughing babies make us smile?. Good and bad are labels we add after the fact. After all, if everything that makes us smile was on the 'good things' list, heroin would be legal.

Doug was pissed off because not only did he get attacked by a dog and yelled off by a lifeguard but, most egregious of all, he wasn't thanked. In other words, he didn't get his reward, his gold star. However, he did get a couple of object lessons in how to work with anger and deal with angry people. Was that of no use whatsoever?

Naturally, of all the players in this story, I felt bad for the stray dog and would like to school Doug in canine etiquette and go find the poor curr, feed it, bathe it, and teach it some manners. But that's just me.

In the end, Doug decided that "in the future, if I ever come across someone drowning, in a canal, in the ocean, perhaps in their own troubles, I’ll still try to help. Because I know what it’s like to be under water, under attack, and wish that somebody, anybody, qualified or not, would offer a helping hand."

So long as compassion trumps a desire for reward, I think we're on the right track.


john said...

Doug, you are a hero. On behalf of all humankind, thank you. I mean it.


Teacher Jim said...

My favorite karma story:

There's a story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?" Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck? Who knows?

Doug Shear said...

Just notice your mention on the site, thought it was cool, thanks for the comments. Right now my karma is trying to teach me some big lessons, which ain't funny.

Doug Shear said...

It's all good in theory, but somehow stubbing your toe FEELS like bad luck, and finding a dollar FEELS like good luck. I get it, but easier said than lived.

Monica said...

So true, Doug, so true!