Since my post falls just one day before the solstice, I thought I’d take inspiration from that and share one of my favorite modern fables: A man was being transferred to a new town, smaller than the one he came from. As he drove in to check out the housing possibilities, he saw an old man in a chair on his porch—clearly a long-time native, who’d know a lot about the town. So he parked and went up to the old man.
“I’m about to move here,” he said, “And I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of town this is, what the people are like.”
“What was the town you came from like?” the old man asked.
“Actually, that’s why I stopped to ask you,” the man said. “Because the town I came from was horrible. The people were unfriendly and rude and selfish—they’d as soon cheat you as look at you! And forget about anyone helping you out. I was hoping this town would be better.”
The old man shook his head sadly. “Sorry, son. Sounds like this town is pretty much like the one you came from.”
“I was afraid of that,” the man said gloomily, and he drove away.
A few days later, another man who was about to move there drove into to the town. He saw the old man, and stopped to ask him the same question.
Once again the old man asked, “What was the town you came from like?”
“That’s why I asked,” the man said. “It was wonderful. The nicest people you could ever meet—helpful, honest, kind. If I hadn’t been transferred I’ve have lived there forever, because it was such a great place.”
“Well, you’re in luck son,” the old man replied. “The people in this town are just like the one you came from.”
Karma, in it’s official philosophical definition, is probably a much more sophisticated concept than the “what goes around comes around” idea it’s often reduced to. But I’ve evolved a personal definition to Karma—that the way you deal with people, and the people you choose to deal with, are what primarily creates your fate. Sure, you can have genuine good luck, or bad…but most of life is about the people you interact with, and that’s something you control, consciously or not.
Mostly you see this in terms of “bad luck.” I think of a hairdresser I once knew, whose ex-husband and all her ex-boyfriends (roughly half a dozen) were all genuinely crappy guys…and it never occurred to her that maybe her guy-selection criteria was at fault. Or a talk radio host, who refused to date any woman who wouldn’t sleep with him if he took her to a nice restaurant…and then bitterly complained that all women were whores. Or one of my father’s co-workers, who bragged about “getting the better of” everyone around him—including someone from whom he borrowed a pickup truck, put several hundred miles on it, and returned it with an empty gas tank. And then boasted to several people about how he’d “scored.” But he was genuinely surprised and indignant when my father refused to loan him the truck again. The flip side of this is demonstrated by most of the other people I know. Wonderful people, who have their share of simple bad luck—but when the bad times come, they have loving and supportive friends and family to help them through it. Everyone, without even realizing it, is constantly creating their own karma—bright and dark.
So in honor of the darkest day of the year, cherish your loved ones and treat the rest of the world as you’d like to be treated. It’s the best way I know to kindle light against the darkness.
Hilari Bell writes fantasy–mostly bright–for kids and teens.