Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching -C.S. Lewis

Guys, I solved it!

I finally figured out the answer to a question that has confounded humanity for thousands of years!

Perhaps for those who fundamentally subscribe to the Hindu & Buddhist religions, this question has already been answered, but for the rest of us, it’s still persisted:

Is Karma Real?

And, I, Chad Daniels, have finally answered that question definitively:

It doesn’t matter whether or not Karma is real.

Yes, I said it. That’s not a knock on Buddhism or Hinduism. They may be right, and all of our actions in this life will influence the situation of lives further on. That one, I can’t answer. However, it should not influence the way we act in our day-to-day lives. Why?

The minute your actions are guided by a desire to deposit goodwill into some karmic bank account to gain compound interest in the heavens so that one day you’ll come back as Ryan Reynolds, you’ve compromised the goodness of your action. You’ve now become transactional in your actions and are letting the possibility of reward in another life or an afterlife, for that matter, influence your decision making.

Don’t treat people and actions as means to an end so that you can sing like Katy Perry four lives from now. Is helping that old lady across the street really that great of an action if it’s just done so that you can pick stocks like Warren Buffett in the year 2406? Karma may be real. Hell, I hope it is. I believe I’ve done and will continue to do a lot to help make the world a better place. That’s not why I do the things I do, though.

People are the end in themselves, they are not a means to another end.

I’m not a member of the royal family, where servants wait on my every beck and call (nor would I want to be really, I can fetch my own beer, thank you very much), and I don’t need to be seven lives from now.

I’m concerned with the person I want to become. In one of my favorite books of all time, Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, I came across the foundations of something called virtue ethics. This philosophy focuses on making sure actions are aligned with the person you want to become, and practicing over and over to strive to become that person.

From this view, the karmic result of your action is meaningless. The only thing you are concerned with is becoming the best version of your self through repetitive action and decision making.

However, what this first entails is deciding who you are now, what you believe to be “good”, what your values are, and the person you want to be as a result of those values. Once you decide who you are, what you believe to be good, and who you want to become, you can then begin the road to virtue without the expectation of receiving anything in return from the universe.

The reward you get comes when you get out of the shower, wipe the fog off the mirror, look into your eyes, and know you are exactly who you want to be, regardless of your circumstances. Only you can give yourself that reward. No windfall of inheritance from a long lost uncle or winning lottery ticket will give you that satisfaction.

I sincerely hope your spiritual beliefs are true, whatever they may be (unless they entail harming other people, then you’re on your own). I hope that one day we’ll be drinking manischewitz with Jesus while we build a cabinet together (he was a Jew, after all, not to mention a carpenter. However, none of my actions will be predicated on punching my ticket to an afterlife. My actions and decisions are based on the values I’ve taken an entire life to cultivate, and continuously examine, re-prioritize, and change as I get older.

For this life, Karma shouldn’t matter. It should be extra profit on an already prosperous life. No one or thing owes you anything for being a good person. However, you owe it to yourself to examine your existence, determine how you can best make the world slightly better before your turn is over, and go after it with everything you’ve got.