Several years ago, I spent 10 days at Buddhist retreat in Berkley. Naturally, there was much talk about good and bad karma — the notion that we reap what we sow. Good deeds will attract good outcomes; bad deeds will attract bad outcomes. Emotionally, the sentiment satisfies my desire for justice but I know kindness doesn’t always beget kindness. Turn the other cheek with a bully and you’re likely to end up with bruises on both sides of your face.
Still, studies have shown that when people are treated well, they generally respond in a positive manner because they are drawn into a sense of a community. Unfortunately, when someone hurts us, that group affiliation dissipates and makes it easier for us to pass our negative feelings along to a stranger. What’s more in the struggle between good and evil, “negative emotions tend to exert more influence over us.” (“The Domino Effect of Greed,” by Michael I. Norton, Scientific American Mind, March/April, 2014, pg. 14-25.)
Perhaps science will one day discover why dark emotions translate into actions more readily than charitable ones, but the fact that they do should give us pause. Every day, depending upon how we conduct ourselves, we fill the world with either kindness or sorrow.
How do we choose? To make our society a better place, we don’t need an act of Congress. The miracle resides within each of us.
(Originally posed 3/19/14)
(Courtesy of arlinplace.blogspot.com)