Statistical Karma

by Mr. Cheap

I wrote on my old site about positive thinking, and how I believe it actually does effect what happens to us in life. I don’t buy into any of the spirituality or mallarchy that some people surround it with, I just thinking there’s a psychological element that gives us the same result.

I have similar feelings about karma. For those who are out of date with their Indian religions (and who don’t watch “My Name is Earl“), basically karma is the idea that you will “get back” what you put out. If you do good things, good things will happen to you, if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you.

Strictly speaking, I believe originally the “rewards” of karma were supposed to occur in the next life, but the new age movement has created a “Big Mac” version of the concept that gives you back what you get ASAP (i.e. in this life). The Wiccan faith has an amusing idea of the “rule of three” which is that you get back three times what you put out (I guess they believe in compounding).

How I think it actually occurs in the real world is due to statistics rather than spirituality. If you do good things, eventually you’ll be nice to someone who will randomly be in a position to unexpectedly help you. One time when I interviewed one of the people involved was a horribly unsocial computer nerd. Being a horribly unsocial computer nerd myself, I was happy to chat him up, although I was convinced he wasn’t going to be very involved in the actual hiring decision (I assumed he was just going to be the “nerd translator” for the people who would actually make the decision). When I turned down the job because the salary was too low, I later found out that he marched into the CEO’s office and championed my cause for 10 minutes until a higher offer was made. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to swap a Babylon 5 joke or two over coffee before the “real interview” starts.

The flip side has happened far more often to me in life. Without fail if you behave badly to enough people, eventually you’ll annoy someone who will later be in a position to hurt you (or not help you). I’ll meet someone, they’ll under-estimate me, then they’ll realize there would have been something productive from interacting with me. I’ve met real estate agents who brush me off, and later realize I actually have money then try to suck up to me. In school I’d meet people who’d be rude to me socially, then later want to borrow assignments or get help with a project. At one interview the owner of the company was very rude to me from the start. As his technical guy rapidly warmed up to me (we shared some laughs discussing why vi is the one true editor and reminiscing about the BBS days) the owner clued in that I’d be someone it would actually be worth hiring and started trying to charm me. I’d already realized I wouldn’t want to spend 8 hours a day with the guy – I’d seen his true colours when he didn’t think I was worth impressing.

Yes, Mr. Cheap holds a grudge and karma can be a bitch :-).

Early in life I would get caught doing bad things often enough that I became convinced it was better just not to do them. I’m probably the law abiding person I am today, in part, because my parents convinced me bad things would happen to me soon after I did bad things to other people.

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