Wikipedia, the great source of all modern wisdom says that the saying, “May you live in interesting times” is an English translation of a traditional Chinese curse, although no actual Chinese source has ever been produced.
I am certain that anyone even vaguely aware of the recent state of affairs via media (both national and international) would say that we do indeed live in interesting times. The present is plagued with bad news, bad choices, bad behaviors–even bad weather–and the future is looking pretty dim, as well. It’s almost like there’s something in the air.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with the idea of karma and wondering whether humanity in general is trotting down the path to the dark side. I grew up in the heyday of Mad Magazine, when the cold war and civil rights movement provided rich pickings for satiric humor. This year, I can scarcely believe what is happening: to Native Americans and journalists in North Dakota, or our presidential election, or to American citizens at the hands of police in so many of our cities, or even the homeless in my own state. I’m not blaming social media, but there is a lot of negativity going on there, too. Almost as if the pink slime in Ghostbusters has become an airborne virus.
Lately, I find myself stunned at the smallest courtesy. The woman at the bank who asked for my drivers license and said I looked far younger than my birthdate–or my photo. The sincerity of my new co-workers when they tell me I’m doing a great job (and there’s no but or ulterior motive behind it). A chance comment on social media from a friend that came a just the right time–and the following exchange that made me feel blessed to be able to call this person my friend.
This past couple of weeks have been particularly difficult for me, with one thing hitting right after another. On one hand, I’ve leveled up in my career in the last six months. I’m still in the kiddie pool, but it’s a much nicer pool. At the same time, my personal life is teetering at the edge of a vortex of suck, and in spite of all my efforts, the gravitational pull of inevitability is dominating most of my thoughts. The hole is getting deeper. I’ve found myself wondering (more than a little) if all the bad things I’ve done in my life are catching up to me.
And maybe from my last couple of lives, too.
Before I became a writer, I did not accept compliments well or easily. Perhaps it was the nature of my job (engineering and technology, then). ‘Good’ was a statistical measurement, not a matter of karma. If it was important, it must be measured, and achievements measured against goals. Either you made it, or you didn’t. Your career trajectory bore a direct correlation to your ability to deliver results to predefined goals. Your number against goal was all that mattered. No mystery there.
And then, out of the blue today, a blessing is bestowed for no good reason. A significant gesture, from an unexpected quarter. Not a solution, not a handout, but a kindness and a gift of grace. And the reason stated was simply this: what goes around comes around, and this time, it’s come around to me.
As writers, we are far more attuned to the concept of karma and the continual conflict between good and–for lack of a better word– not good. Of course, in fiction, good does not always win out in the end–it does not always balance out. Life is like that too. But if we’ve got to live in interesting times, I like the idea that one good turn deserves another.
Maybe there’s someone in your life who has done good turn for you in the past. Maybe you return the kindness today. Sometimes, a kind word is all it takes to make a world of difference to someone. We could all use a little extra kindness in the world, don’t you think?