Biff America: Just Desserts (column)
July 21, 2018
OK, so a few poachers trespassed into a South African game preserve in hopes of killing an endangered rhino. They expected to slaughter the rhino, remove its horn and leave the rest to rot. There is a vast Asian black market demand for powdered rhino horn because of its purported male virility powers.
Rhino horn, virility … get it?
All was going according to plan until the poachers ran into a family of lions (called a pride). The lions attacked the poachers and ate them. The pride left so little of them after their meal that officials had to speculate just how many poachers perished.
I have to say, at first, when I heard the story, it cracked me up. Upon reflection, delighting in three people being mauled, ravaged and eaten alive might be a trifle harsh. Perhaps a slight case of "overkill" (sorry).
Many would suggest that karma played a role in how those poachers perished.
Karma, according to this book I found in the library, is the result of "cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering."
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Put simply, if you do good stuff — are compassionate, honest and pick up after your dog — good stuff happens to you. If you do bad stuff —are selfish, mean, kill rhinos so some guy can use it as a Viagra substitute — you become a lion happy-meal.
I have to say, the poachers turning into human tartar has a pleasant symmetry.
The principal of karma, preached in Hinduism and Buddhism, is a comfort. Not only are good people rewarded, but bad folks get punished. The only problem is, you can't count on it. Poachers don't get eaten nearly enough.
I did not get exposed to karma until I became a hippie in my late teens. Since I was raised Roman Catholic, the theory of karma was foreign. We Papists had our own cause and effect that was less immediate and longer lasting. We had heaven and hell.
You do good stuff — are a good Catholic; kind, honest, and don't have impure thoughts while sneaking a look at the undies hanging from the Casey sisters' clothes line — you go to heaven.
When you do the opposite, you go to hell.
Now to be clear, Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist all have heaven, but Catholic heaven was the BEST. Pretty sure Lutheran heaven had a daily limit on how much ice cream you were allowed to eat. (Admittedly I have not verified this assertion.)
We were also taught that sometimes God hears your prayers and intercedes with life on earth. As a kid I had prayer Tourette's; I prayed like a crazy person. I prayed for the Red Sox and president (JFK). I'd pray that I'd be a great athlete and an average student. As I aged, my prayers became less about others and more about myself. When I found myself praying about getting to second base with one of the Casey girls, I deemed it unreliable.
Yes, it was possible that someone prayed, "Hey God, the next time a poacher tries to kill a rhino, could you have lions eat him?" BUT, my guess is if the Almighty took out bad people, we would not have had Hitler, Stalin or Genghis Khan.
Again, it is comforting to believe in karmic and/or spiritual recompense. To paraphrase Voltaire, "If there was not karma or divine payback, it would be necessary to invent one." Simply put, the concept of recompense — the idea that there is a divine or karmic payback for good or bad earthly occurrences, makes you feel good.
I'd love to have that conviction, but the best I can do is hope. What I do know from many decades of life lived, personal experiences and observations is that, in terms of payback, God and karma are unnecessary as I witness payback daily.
Not saying that good things necessarily "happen" to good people, but rather good people tend to be happier, more joyful, content and receiving of love. The happiest people I know are generally the kindest. On the flip side, the jerks I know, those that are negative, suspicious, angry and selfish are often less loved, lacking friends and are, for the most part, unhappy. Particularly when they are getting eaten alive … That really tends to irritate them……………..
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff's new book "Mind, Body, Soul." is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul