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K is for Kindness, Karma, and Kismet

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 4, 2004


"Mean people suck, and corrupt people suck quietly." — Ancient Leucadian proverb

Last week while returning home from a business function, I was crossing the train tracks on Leucadia Boulevard, when an reckless young man cut me off while making a left hand turn from the right hand lane. Unable to do anything but say "dude" I too turned left onto Vulcan, easily keeping a safe distance as he was obviously in a hurry. I couldn't help think his life would probably end in self-induced carnage.

Unfazed by his reckless display of driving, I was nonetheless annoyed by his lack of concern for everyone else. And then he tossed a lit cigarette from his window. Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis knows few things annoy me more than suicidal smokes littering the planet.

When the guy pulled up in front of his house, instead of stopping and reading him the riot act, I decided the "K" in this Alphabet series would focus on Karma and the impact of a life of nefarious self-absorption. As a writer I have the skills and forum to process such an experience while reaching a larger audience besides the careless monkey in the white Nissan.

It never ceases to amaze me how certain people can go through life without an ounce of ethical moorings. Of course most people would not consider speeding down a dark busy street, and throwing burning trash into the street a breech of ethics, but that doesn't make it less so. Littering reduces the quality of life for everyone, as does smoking, reckless driving, and the lack of concern needed for all of the above.

A key element of integrity is personal responsibility. A key element of kindness is concern for others. I use my encounter with the smoking motorist to highlight the consequences of t hose living in their own private Idaho. And this doesn't just apply to selfish smokers, white-collar corruption falls into this category as do imperious politicians hungry for war or self-promotion. Kindness also calls for restraint of one's baser instincts.

Also last week someone did me some serious harm by casually dropping a bomb into my professional life, robbing me of an opportunity a year in the making. My first instinct was to strike back, give as good as I got, consequences be damned. But instead of going to that dark place, I took time to reflect that by taking the high road, I emerge stronger as a person, with self respect intact, and no messy karma to worry about later. Once that decision was made the hurt and anger evaporated and I was once again in control of my own destiny.

Upon further reflection I was able to clearly assess why an unethical adversary targeted me, and how such an action had left me in a place of power. Stepping away from the retaliation option, I decided the best solution was to stay focused on doing what was right in the face of wrongdoing.

Much like the selfish smoker, who has only a life of ill heath, and ashtray esthetics, to look forward to, the people who sought to provoke me into anger by robbing me of opportunity, will have to live with the fact that they have damaged their own public image beyond repair. Sadly their own darkness will eat away at them, making their conscience resemble the lungs of a life-long smoker.

Karma is kismet self-induced. Destructive behavior regardless of scope or scale, will eventually wound the one wielding the weapon. Self-contempt always evidences itself in contempt for others, and lying to oneself, or to others, will not change this. In the world of karma, kindness to others is really self preservation.

Last week I dodged a karma bullet, granted it came at personal expense, but by choosing not to stoop to the level of those wallowing in their contempt for others I emerge with a clean conscience and newfound level of self-respect.

Now if only I could find a way to keep people from using the planet as their own personal ashtray.

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