Vail Daily column: Clinging to the promise of karma
February 22, 2016
Our shadowy overlords posit the law as the backbone of our allegedly civilized society. This central position is secured by the compelling premise that bad actions will be met with negative consequences. Coupled with the promise that these penalties will be uniformly and impartially enforced, the citizenry is mollified into believing that order can be imposed upon an inherently wild and unpredictable population. Or perhaps we pretend to trust the system because it is less disconcerting than accepting the truth: those inclined to behave badly have an outsized chance of escaping unscathed. Whether it be a bank allegedly too big to fail, an unnecessarily aggressive homeowners' association, a sociopathic paramour or a middle-school bully, miscreants at every level trod our earthly plane with impunity from legal prosecution. But nobody can escape the clutches of karma, the spiritual equivalent of vigilante justice.
Karma is a doctrine based on the idea that our past and present actions will determine our future fate. Arising from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, its essence is nonetheless echoed across theologies and scientific principles. Karma is a kissing cousin of the Golden Rule, but also of Newton's Third Law of Motion: each cause is inextricably tied to an effect. In a world that is often inexplicable, reliance on these empirically and anecdotally tested explanations offers a modicum of comfort.
Blind dedication to a legally untenable position can be an incredibly powerful strategy in a conflict. Instead of engaging in constructive dialogue in an effort to come to a resolution, there is a childish logic to repeating the same wrong statements over and over until they assume the appearance of truth. Whereas a toddler has a cute visage and lack of awareness to excuse this behavior, adults acting this way are evil. When that person's attorney is either too lazy or ineffectual to step in, the intransigence is magnified many fold. An opposing party, no matter how objectively right they may be, is either forced to just suck it up and move on in the face of this lunacy, or else expend precious financial and emotional resources in the legal system.
Holding the Enemy Accountable
Only the desperate or the fundamentally flawed actively want to engage in a lawsuit. Thus, unless the dispute will leave one bankrupt or similarly hamstrung, sane people are inclined to leave any potential recovery on the table and proceed with their lives. But they are nagged by the feeling that they should be the ones to stand up and fight the madness. They want their enemy to be held accountable. Those who succumb to this impetus often regret it, particularly if technicalities, inattentive judges or clueless juries allow their foe to emerge victorious.
Even though I am daily immersed in the ongoing farce of the legal system, I am certainly not immune from the impulse to seek justice in court. Theoretically, it is the forum for redress of grievances and it is always included in the spectrum of choices that I present to clients who have been aggrieved. Unfortunately, like communism, the law's implementation is far less compelling than its intention. Running headlong into an infinite feedback loop of an obstinate opponent makes about as much sense as repeatedly bashing one's head into a wall.
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This is where faith in karma can be a sanity-saving salve. Instead of relying upon the vagaries of the legal system, one can leave one's opponent's destiny to the cosmic circle of retribution. Sometimes karma is instant; lifetimes may pass before its bite takes hold. The cheating and thieving life partner may awake one day to find that the woman he finally believed he could love slept with his best friend. The homeowners' association that used its superior finances to coerce an owner into an ill-advised course of action may find its fortunes reversed by overzealous investment strategies.
Karma is angel as well as executioner. Viewed positively, karma provides an incentive framework for good deeds and behavior. Remaining calm, taking the high road, and contributing to rational discussion and action will be rewarded, if not in funds, then at least in contentment. To believe otherwise is to succumb to the dark force of cynicism, the easy lover who nonetheless leaves you unfulfilled.
Karma, like any ethereal idea, requires belief. The very act of believing is a boon unto itself. Rather than requiring adherence to strict codes of behavior, it bilaterally distills one's worldview into an easy choice. Do you choose to contribute positively to the universe, or will you be the blackness that invites physical or psychological torment? I know which side I am taking.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.