I just watched Roman Polanski's “The Pianist”. Now, being Polish, my mother ran a Polish restaurant on Kent Avenue across from the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the war, I was aghast at the brutality and cruelty perpetrated on my mother and father's family in Krakow and Warsaw, respectively. A fuckin' horror, just about the lowest levels of human depravity and sadism ever experienced.

To me, the immortal Shakespeare was the greatest writer in human history. The movie reminded of the line from Julius Caesar, “the evil men do lives after them, the good of oft interred with their bones.”

To tell the truth I detest organized religion. Utter horseshit, be it Christianity, Islam or Judaism. But I must admit I was always intrigued with the concept of Karma. An anonymous philosopher once said that the worst punishment you'll receive in your life will be self-imposed. I've seen it over and over, even a close friend committed evil deeds and wound up a chain smoker with lung cancer before reaching sixty years old.

Here's the epiphany I realized watching the movie: The despicable evil Hitler and Nazi soldiers committed during WWII will never be expunged from memory. They cursed the German people and to this day Germany pays the price. The epiphany (which I define as a sudden intuitive insight into reality) I experienced is that Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an effort to prove to the world that the German people are not all Nazis, permitted tens of thousands of refugees into German villages without regard for national, cultural and historical heritage. It's the land of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Goethe, fa Christ's sake. Tiny villages in Bavaria are being overwhelmed by invaders as I write this article and German culture is being attacked in much the same way Warsaw was in 1939.

It's all a matter of Karma. After 77 years, what am irony.

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Comment by tom sarbeck on April 28, 2016 at 5:14pm

In my post-graduate study (fifty years after my BA) of English literature, I found mention of religion's grip failing in the early 1800s.

Victorian literature, telling life-long stories in which good was rewarded and evil punished, restored control over the masses.

Aristocrats and their kind of course continued their evil ways.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on April 28, 2016 at 2:50pm

The most meaningful use of the word karma I've seen is in the old graffito:

Your karma ran over my dogma.

Comment by Alan Perlman on April 28, 2016 at 2:48pm

I was citing the definition used by New Agers in the suburbs (mostly white Jewish women).  So it does work, but only for good?  So much of literature turns on the bad guy getting what he deserves.  People want to believe in the punitive definition of "karma."

Comment by Michael Penn on April 27, 2016 at 7:36pm

There is no future lifetime for karma. Karma is simply "working and doing." The biggest believers in a "get even" type of karma are Christians. They think that for there to be any divine justice Hitler has to be burning in hell, and he will burn there for all eternity. Hitler being dead now just isn't good enough. "What goes around comes around" they say. True if we are talking planets. Wrong for people, justice, and combating evil in the world. The biblical concept for all this is that god punishes all the evil doers. It may be in quick time or a long time coming.

There is absolutely no truth in this type of karma system. The truth is more akin to ideas that if you do good deeds then good deeds will follow you. It's not a reward and punishment system.

Comment by Alan Perlman on April 27, 2016 at 6:39pm

I know, at some point it makes no sense, but then we're arguing that the Holocaust was unique (sorry, broke Godwin's Law) and that German guilt is eternal (just the kind of racial guilt they accused the Jews of).

PS. Forgot to add that Hindus may fudge karma by predicting that you'll get yours in a future lifetime.  Doesn't work for me.

Comment by Michael Enquist on April 27, 2016 at 2:14pm

Holy cow! Germans born today should suffer for what their long-dead ancestors did? Brazilians are suffering from Gaia's revenge?

What happens after the death of the last Jewish person who was in a German gulag? Can the innocent German kids finally stop paying?

Who paid the Brazilians to cut down the trees? Do you believe they came up with the idea themselves?

The reason Native tribes started casinos inside their jurisdictions is because lawyers successfully argued that Native governments are much more sovereign than the way they were treated in the past, not because of any white guilt.

Sorry. No karma. If you want evildoers to pay for their crimes, you need to get out there and make it happen.

Comment by Alan Perlman on April 27, 2016 at 1:44pm

I've pondered "karma" for many years, and I've seen SOBs punished for the fraud and ill will they've created (Bernie Madoff).  Make enough enemies, and one of them will find a way to get you.  Yet many of them get away with it, as in Gwaithmir's example.  Conclusion: luck plays a far more important role than we give it credit for.  Bill Clinton was a serial rapist, but also a consummate bullshitter, and he seems to have escaped untouched (but let's see what Monica Lewinsky has yet to say).  I agree that it will be a LONG time before the Germans escape the karma of \what their forebears allowed to happen.

Comment by Gwaithmir on April 22, 2016 at 7:09pm

Karma? Bunk! I knew a guy at work who, for two decades, was the nastiest jerk I ever met. Everybody disliked him. He was a verbal bully who took great delight in getting others angry and did it often. He also found great amusement in the misfortune of others, laughing when my cousin was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was a virulent anti-Semite. Adolph Hitler was his hero because he murdered millions of Jews. He cheated on his wife regularly and bragged about it. And yet this guy led a comfortable, prosperous life, dying at the ripe old age of 85. Karma? Bunk!

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on April 22, 2016 at 10:07am

Rich, I think it's possible that humans may need that connection for our continued survival as you say, but evolution can continue on its merry way without us. BTW, I've always thought that the real "holy trinity" is William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Jung, all of whom might have well agreed with your subconscious groupthink notion, if not the idea of karmic retribution. After all, it's not only the Brazilians who will pay for trashing the rain forest.

Comment by Rich Goss on April 22, 2016 at 10:02am

I guess the point I'm trying to make is quite profound and difficult to pinpoint. It's been with me since my earliest writing in the '70s.  In the nutshell, the subconscious doesn't forget and the line from Shakespeare is very appropriate. On a group level, as with the reference to Carl Jung, the phenomenon is even more so.  

In deference to Michael, instead of Karma, let's use the Orwellian term "subconscious groupthink."  (If you've seen my Youtube video on the "endmeme" I'm a bit of a neologist, a coiner of words.)  With this in mind, here's my prediction:  The entire country of Brazil and the people in it will suffer calamity and hardship for destroying the Amazon Rain Forest.  Less than half of it remains now from what was there in 1950. The degradation of the forest was stupid, egregious and unnecessary.  They wiped out millions of years of evolution and biodiversity.  Gaia will castigate them and even worse much of the punishment will be self-inflicted through riots, civil war or some other self-imposed calamity.  

My other prediction was first written about in 1970 is stated in my essay, "My Religious Experience" 'til this day still available on Dr; Lester Grinspoon's website, marijuana-uses.com.  The piece is also in my ebook, Pot Stories and Humanist Essays, in the essay of the same title cited above.

To wit: (And I devoutly believe this), if any of our cousin hominoids (the great apes: gorillas, chimps, orangs and gibbons) go extinct, humans will experience a "loneliness of spirit" and its own extinction will soon follow.  Humans will have cut the umbilical cord that connects our species to nature and the rest of the animal world. 

Etymology (as well as neology, coining words) are bobbies of mine. Appropriate to the ideas above, the word "Religion" derives from "Re" a prefix meaning "again", and "Lig" meaning a "tying" as in "ligature" as in tubal ligature, or "ligament" connecting two muscles.  Religion is a retying of the umbilical cord to the mother church. 

But of course it's only symbolic.  Once Homo sapiens is completely severed from nature and the animal world planet Earth will become a ghost ship who's lost its mooring sailing through indifferent and dispassionate space . Our connection to a 560-million-year evolutionary process (the Cambrian Explosion) will be lost. 

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