Artist or Accountant?

Do the Scales Balance?

Portrait of Luca PacioliA guy driving back from a fishing trip is killed when a rock thrown from an overpass crashes through his windshield. Shit happens.

An otherwise-healthy 32-year-old mother of 5 small children contracts breast cancer and dies within 4 months of the diagnosis. Shit happens.

A cab driver steps between a man and the girlfriend he is hitting. The man turns on the cabbie and beats him into a coma. He dies within weeks without regaining consciousness. Shit happens.

Or at least, that’s what some people say.

Other people say that what goes around comes around. Karma’s a bitch. You reap what you sow. The scales must be balanced.

I wonder: Is the universe fundamentally just or not?

If the universe is just…

…then there is an accountant in charge who balances out every debit with an offsetting credit and every extra credit with a debit.

The universe is a zero-sum game. Everything must eventually balance.

But if it is not…

…then there is room in this universe for the unexpected and unbalanced to occur. Not just shit but grace as well. Not just bad luck but gratuitous fortune.

As it happens, we almost never see stuff get balanced. We almost never see a debit offset with a credit. Bad things tend to happen to good people, for no rhyme or reason. Good things happen to bad people, and they get away with it.

If the universe is just, and we don’t see every debit offset with a credit, then we tell ourselves stories to explain why.

Either we project the credit off into the distant future beyond death, (heavenly reward), or we place the debit into the distant past, beyond birth, (karma’s a bitch).

Both explanations require faith because neither is subject to proof.

If the bad stuff  is balancing undeserved fortune, then perhaps the good stuff is balancing undeserved misfortune, right? And vice versa?

Is shit happening to you because something from the distant past is finally catching up with you, (the sins of the fathers are visited on their children), or is the shit something you’ll get a reward for after you’re dead?

How can we know? It’s more than enough to drive you crazy.

Artistry, Not Accountancy

Of course, if the universe is not just, then perhaps it’s because there’s an artist in charge.

We’ve all known artists. They are messy. They are disorganized. They are extreme in their actions and reactions. Often they don’t make sense. They tend to over-indulge their senses and neglect the necessities of life. All for the sake of art.

“Shit happens,” yes – but to me it is just part of the great messy canvas the universal artist paints upon.

Oh, and grace happens on that canvas, too.

So breathe. In and out. In and out.

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