Suddenly a sentence popped into my mind, seemingly out of nowhere, We're as distinguished by the people that dislike us as we are by the ones that like us. I was told this about twenty years ago. For reasons I don't recall, it came up when I'd mentioned someone who really despised me for good reason, a result of a brief exchange. I was accused falsely and made my stand. I sometimes like to take karma into my hands and be the source of the karmic return. I realize I don't ever have to do anything to give a karmic return, it happens automatically and will come from anywhere. There are moments I decide to give the return, because I want to see what happens, and want the other to understand it's me giving the return.. Most of the time when somebody has done me dirty, I'll let it pass and go on, knowing a return will occur. There have been times I felt a return was called for, one I don't want to be sent to prison for, and let it be, aware the return is already set in motion by the deed itself and I'd do best to get out of the way and let karma handle it. Even though I like to think I'm spiritual every once in awhile, I still like revenge. It's a major subject in Hong Kong men-with-guns movies and samurai tales. It's not good policy; revenge has it's karmic return too. Revenge can go back and forth endlessly when it gets started. Somebody ends up dead sometimes and somebody in prison. I'm not that dedicated to revenge. When it's the kind of revenge that makes me want to be able to contemplate murder, I back off and give it over to karma. When somebody pulls a stunt on me that I think of as being hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat, then I will return same for the fun of showing other: this is what it's like. It's fun, too, to back away and wait to see what the return will be. A good karmic return is better justice than I can think up using mind, more balanced.
Recalling the time a man I worked for flew in my face over his own doings, none of it mine. He lost a little control in the thrill of telling somebody off. By the time he'd finished, he went on to tell me what I'm to do. I thought without saying it, already I knew my surprise for him. I stood listening to him, thinking, I don't work for you anymore. I waited til next morning to deliver the message by not showing up for work. He did me the redneck way, I did him the redneck way. Questioned for why, I say nobody ever gets a chance to talk to me like that a second time--I have control. A woman who took it upon herself to be my agent sold a couple of my paintings and decided it was time to take charge of me. I was told to paint "nigger kids playing around an old school house. That's what people want." That was it. She never had another chance to tell me how to paint. I said to self, I can't even be associated with ignorance such as that. The point was that she had more money than I did so she automatically assumed rights over me. It didn't work out like that, however. She got the message that I am strange, meaning unpredictable and not for sale. She is part of why I don't want the rich owning my paintings. She would think it a self-defeating attitude. She thinks in terms of money. I stopped painting for about ten years. Couldn't do it anymore from absence of interest. If this is what painting leads to, I don't want it. Business kills my art spirit. Money kills my art spirit. Something I put heart and soul into, and a good amount of time, suddenly becomes a commodity when I sign it. If I go for the money, I become a factory of one. I never wanted to work in a factory.
There's the guy I wanted to allow myself to contemplate murder with intent to get away with it. This is the point where I stop thinking I'd like the murder option, imagining what it would take to get away with it, and then living with getting away with it. I decide prison would be better, don't want to go to prision, so forget the murder option. I back away from involvement and turn revenge over to karma. And forget about it. It's the same as done. I metaphorically sit back and wait for the return and laugh when it happens. For unknown reasons karma gives a better balanced return than a will for revenge. I've seen returns that are more severe than I had assessed, and sometimes less. I've learned to just step back and wait. Patience. It usually doesn't take long. Somebody shot three holes in some windows with an air rifle. I knew exactly where he shot it from and who did it. I let it go by. Didn't want to set the revenge cycle in motion. I was asked by a friend, What did you do? I said, Put clear tape over the holes. I want to remember the moment. He said he meant, what am I going to do about it? I said, Nothing. Why not? It will take care of itself. He'll get his return. It's better when my hand is not in it. I said something similar will happen to him, he'll get mad, won't make the association of where it came from, and I'm out of the picture. Asked, How did you know it was him? I answered, It's a chickenshit thing to do and chickenshit is his signature. He was saying he wanted to shoot me, but not enough to go to prison, a symbolic gesture. I already knew he wanted me dead. He'd done the same thing at his mother's house. This moment showed me he wasn't mad enough to do it, just enough to say, You piss me off. The story that went before is a lesson in why it's not a good idea to pet rattlesnakes. He threatens me to other people, though I know he doesn't have what it takes. And if he does, can heaven be worse than this?
The other incident, where I wished I could contemplate murder, went on for a few years. I stayed out of the back-and-forth, let the boomerangs he threw at me return to him, which happened over and over. It was to the point it became my entertainment. Suddenly, one day, he got it that he had misread my motivations out of jealousy and pleaded for forgiveness. What could I do? I forgave. It just fell away. Now he's one of my best friends, the kind you can depend on treat you right and watch your back. It runs both ways. Before, we wanted to kill each other. Now, we defend each other. He's somebody I could say all kinds of negative shit about, but never do. When he comes up in conversation, I plead his case, a way of getting the word around, too, I've got his back. You mess with him, you mess with me. This is somebody I could not tolerate before. Now we can sit by the wood stove and laugh for hours. It was a two-way forgiveness that was real, from the heart in both cases. The most curious part for me was how easy forgiveness was. Like I say, the problem just fell away, like dropping junk mail into the waste basket. Allowing karma appears to be a kind of forgiveness. Once I decide not to pursue revenge and let karma handle it, it's over. I feel like the debt is paid, so to speak. It's over. I can let it go, knowing it will return in kind. It also does not feel like forgiveness, yet somehow it is. Perhaps forgiveness comes with an understanding of karma, which can be counted on for revenge. The revenge is in the deed itself. No need to even get involved by getting upset. Let it handle itself. Just say, Que sera, sera. What will be, will be. Because it will.
lawrence ferlinghetti himself