On Karma, Misfortunes & Envy

1 Karma


It was the last summer before school. I was 6. Somehow our kindergarten group found ourselves on a beach. But we weren’t sunbathing or anything like that. We were rollerblading.

There was this big mountain (at least that’s how it looked like when you’re 6 years old) that we were trying to ride from. It was a simple ride. You go up, and then you blade down. Teacher asked us to clean the road - there was some glass from shattered bear bottles.

The exact thought process behind the next decision escapes me now, but it was something along the lines of “I ain’t nobody’s bitch - do it yourself”.

All the other kids helped out.

So I had to blend in and pretend that I was also looking for glass to clear out. I remember seeing a big bottom part of the shattered bottle, lying just on the side of the road. “Well, it’s not on the road.” I thought. “Nothing’s going to happen. Yes, it’s quite big, but what are the chances that someone’s going to fall in this exact spot?” So I left the glass where I found it and everybody went rollerblading.

Some 40 minutes have passed this way. My mom already came to pick me up and take me home. Then it happened.

I tripped, fell, landed on this glass.

The very same glass that I failed to pick up and throw away.

Now I have a scar on my ass to forever remind me about unintended consequences of my actions.

I don’t know what’s the right lesson of this story, but if anything - I started to believe in karma after this. Would you?

Alternatively, I recently read a tweet from Naval Ravikant that seems relevant: “People are oddly consistent. Karma is just you repeating your patterns, virtues and flaws, until you finally get what you deserve.“

2 Misfortunes

I never told this story to a lot of people.

Probably because when I was just a child, my aunt told me that I made the whole thing up. Sure, I had the scar - but the whole “you fell on a piece of glass that you failed to throw away” part was made up.

But I mention this for a different reason.

Whenever some bad thing happens, people tend to throw their arms up (usually figuratively) to the sky and ask “why me?”

Whenever I hear this, I’m reminded of Christopher Hitchens famous line.

“To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”

If you define happiness as peace, as opposed to more prevalent definition that includes some notion of joy - the “why not?” question often helps.

Whatever you’re going through, it’s not special. It’s not some unique misfortune picked out just for you. This is not your personal hell. You’re not in a loop. It’s just what it is.

3 Envy

I sometimes envy people with BDE, new expensive cars or superior sense of humour.

I’m sure you were envious before, so you know how this works.

But it’s also easy to trick your brain to stop being envious. I learned this framework from Ryan Holiday.

“[The thing about envy is that] we don’t simply want what other people have. We want to keep everything we have and add theirs to it, even if those things are mutually exclusive (and on top of that, we also want them to not have it anymore). But if you had to trade places entirely with the person you envy, if you had to give up your brain, your principles, your proudest accomplishments to live in their life, would you do it? Are you willing to pay the price they paid to get what you covet?”

For me, so far the answer was always no. I don’t want to trade places with anyone.

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