The Worst Chapter Of Our Lives Will Never Be Our Whole Story

Joshua Earle/ Unsplash

I lately had a vivid dream about receiving an odd assigning on my first day at a new job. In my dreaming, several new hires eagerly met with our superintendent who surprised us by tasking us with writing an essay on “karma.”

Gulp. A lump of anxiety formed in my throat that I could feel, even in my dream nation. I was pretty sure “karma” was just a fancy term for “destiny” or “fate, ” a heady topic under any name and one I wasn’t thrilled to tackle.

As dream-me first considered the word, I couldn’t get past the biggest event of my real life. I lost my not quite six-year-old daughter four years ago to an illness.

Was this really my fate? Had my actions to that point genuinely resulted me to that dismal destiny? If so, what horrific act had I perpetrated that karma needed to punish me so altogether?

I didn’t want to write the essay. I wanted to run as far away from impossible questions as I could.

So instead of sitting down to write, I went to visit a friend in prison; a person who exists in real life but who happened to be incarcerated only in my dreaming. As we talked, he told me about a reciprocal acquaintance, this one a fictional product of my subconscious mind, who regularly visited him in jail.

I was amazed at my friend’s news. Though he has a good heart, he is, in reality, a rough and tumble product of the working class Polish/ Italian streets which is something we grew up. He’s lived a violent at times existence, eeking out a living through both legal and illegal means, and has a personal ethos that the courts does indeed mandate an eye for an eye in nearly all situations.

His visitor, on the other hand, was conceived in my intellect as a frail Asian named Jung Lee who seemed to me to be far too intellectual, kind, and gentle to have much in common with my friend. Nevertheless, my friend talked in my dream about the difference Jung Lee had stimulated in their own lives by visiting him.

He looked forward to their regular meetings and the lessons he learned through Jung’s far different view. He seemed eager to attain positive changes in his life on his coming release from prison.

At this point, the dreaming fizzled, as they often do. I awoke, immediately replaying the fragments in my mind and piecing them together as best I could.

How did the rest of the dreaming relate to the karma essay assignment given at the beginning? I felt my friend’s fictional interaction with the Jung Lee character might hold some meaning worth exploring.

Perhaps my friend’s destiny wasn’t his incarceration and all the actions that led to it. Though that was certainly part of it, perhaps his full destiny was still evolving. Maybe satisfying Jung and all that might follow were as much a part of his tale as anything that happened previously.

He could even have a hand in shaping this fate, and already was shaping it, simply by accepting Jung into his life and being open to a new message counter to nearly everything he had heard and believed to this phase. A life of atonement through sharing his story and helping others avoid similar tracks seemed a likely second act.

I’m very aware that this is a simplistic and optimistic viewpoint. Does anyone really want to accept that karma is so unforgiving as to deal out a lengthy prison term or the loss of the person or persons you love the most and that the narrative ends there?

A story of redemption offers hope. And actually, without hope what incentive is there to trudge forward?

There’s no question the view of karma I derived from this dreaming is healthier than a opinion where karma leads to the horrific event and only objectives there. It’s also a view that promotes self-preservation so it could be clouded by an overruling desire to survive above all else.

I’m still wrestling with that and likely will for a long time. I’ll surely always believe that part of karma for me was the loss of my daughter and that there is no real reason for it. It just happened, and there was certainly an immense feeling of soul-crushing finality.

In the wake of her demise, I’ve mourned mightily this finality. That’s a huge part of the story.

But maybe that’s not all there is to it. Maybe there are more chapters.

There’s also the story of trying to live a more authentic life by leaving a career I loathed and starting my own business doing something about which I’m passionate. If there’s any opportunity she can see me from wherever she is, I’d want her to insure me defined not only by heartache but also by hope.

For all of us who are carrying around the weight of loss or poor selections or bad luck, perhaps that seemingly defining event isn’t the whole of our tale. I’m not willing to say the reason the bad thing happened is so the good thing could follow, but I am willing to entertain the idea that it is possible to persevere and grow and help create a new path with multiple events that define us.

Most explanations of karma I’ve read refer to this sum total of many actions and events; not only one. To me, this means we have many opportunities each day, right up until the working day we draw our last breath, to assistance write our fates through big and small actions.

Granted, specific actions( or inactivities) loom much larger than others and will assume greater roles in shaping who we become, but it’s the very rare one that exclusively marks anyone forever. All of us who are mired in struggles that seem all-encompassing may gain some much-needed hope and perspective by remembering this multifaceted nature of the elusive idea of karma.

“Realize that everything connects to everything else.”~ Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci

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