Tag Archives: Karma

That’s Why I’m On This Oil Rig

(c)  Agência Brasil – Reprinted under the creative commons license

Last week I wrote about karma. Some people think it’s bunk and others are all on board with it. I’m a baptized Anglican who gave religion an honest-to-goodness chance, more than once at different points in my life I might add, only to land on Atheism as the thing (or lack of a thing) that makes the most sense. At the same time, I am drawn to the notion of there being a balance to the Universe as well as some sort of Order of Things. Or maybe it’s simply my mind playing tricks and if I stare long enough at the randomness maybe patterns will appear?

Karmic principles can be boiled down to the most basic of concepts: Balance. Put good out, get good in return; put bad out, get bad in return. Finding (and explaining) the order among the chaos, however, can’t be reduced to anything as simple. At least I haven’t been able to do it, and on a few occasions I’ve tried.

Does everything happen for a reason?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? My brain tells me, “Nope. It’s all random shit. If it’s working out for you then it’s just dumb luck, and if it isn’t then deal with it,” but my gut tells me something else. Maybe it’s as simple as making as many good decisions as possible in an effort to obtain the best possible result. Then again, I’ve certainly made my fair share of bad decisions and things have come up roses more often than not so maybe it doesn’t matter.

What does it all mean?

Ugh, these conversations annoy me. I don’t know. I’m fairly convinced it doesn’t mean anything; it just is, and when it’s done there is nothing. But then stuff like this happens:

Back in 2013 I was gearing up to participate in NaNoWriMo and decided that I would start a Facebook support group for the month long event. I had been a member of one such group a year earlier and it was a big success. Having befriended many writers on Twitter and Facebook I felt that there would be good uptake, and there was. A good sixty or seventy people joined and many of us went on to make our 50,000-word goals.

When NaNo finished I kept getting asked if I would keep the group alive as a writers’ group. It seemed like a great idea so we conducted a poll and “Writers Without Borders” was formed. The group became private shortly thereafter (too many non-participants and riff-raff selling stuff) and now members add friends and acquaintances as they feel is appropriate.

Leap ahead (from then, but about a month before now) and a friend of a friend of mine makes a comment about Chuck Wendig. I can’t remember where, but I think it was on Facebook. Anyway, since I have a big man crush on Chuck and this person was mutual Facebook friends with something like 39 people I had to friend her. I’m not sure why, but I just felt compelled to click the “Add Friend” button. So I did, she accepted, and shortly thereafter I invited her to WWB.

Turns out she was in the process of starting the OCH Literary Society and she put out a call for writers. So, I submitted the first 1,000 words of the novel I’m currently editing for consideration. A few days later I got an email saying I was accepted. The site needed fiction writers, but I could blog if I wanted. I said I would do both and we landed on once a month blog post and some serial fiction with installments every couple weeks.

This reminds me of the show Connections, in which the host James Burke would walk you through a whack of seemingly unrelated events only for you to end up learning that a poem written in the dark ages is the reason we have indoor plumbing today.

My connections went like this:

  • 2011 – NaNoWriMo (failed writing No Known Cure with WAY less than 50,000 words)
  • 2012 – joined random NaNoWriMo Facebook group (won with No Fixed Address – the prequel to No Known Cure)
  • 2013 – started my own NaNoWriMo Facebook group (won with The Book of Good“)
  • 2014 – NaNoWriMo group becomes Writers Without Borders
  • 2015 – Andrew invites Allie into WWB
  • 2015 – Allie founds the OCH Literary Society
  • 2015 – Andrew submits 1,000 words to Allie for consideration
  • 2015 – Andrew becomes a staff writer (serial fiction) and occasional blogger for OCH
You can read more about my first OCH blog post, We Are Writers, over at their website. It focuses on “community” origins of my connections as opposed to the existentialist beginnings of this post. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veaJCc0Z41w]

Oh, and remember those 1,000 words I sent my new friend, Allie, that got me into OCH? They were the first thousand words of my first (and first failed) NaNoWriMo in 2011. 
And the serial novel I’ll be contributing to OCH? Well, it’s none other than my successful NaNoWriMo after the creation of what would become WWB in 2013, which I had shelved after 56,000 words because I didn’t know what to do with the second half of the story.

How about one more…

Allie’s last name is Burke. Same as the host of the show Connections. 

Strange things are afoot, Ted. Strange things indeed. 
~ Andrew

P.S. You might be wondering about the title I chose for this post. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that little inside joke, which I’ll let you all in on now:

Back in the winter of 1994 I was wrapping up my first year a the University of Waterloo and a bunch of us were in Kirby’s room (because he had cable – stolen from the study room across the hall, but he had it nonetheless). Someone was flipping through the channels (a practice which drives me completely nuts. Just choose something to watch already!). Flip – something stupid. Flip – something uninteresting. Flip – some British dude standing in the middle of the ocean saying, “That’s why I’m on this oil rig!” Flip. By the time we flipped to the next channel everyone had processed the absurdity of what we had just heard and started laughing out loud. None of us knew what the show it was or who the dude on the oil rig was and that phrase would be forever used whenever any one of us encountered a  non-sequitur.

Jump ahead to the summer of 1996 and my pot smoking, guitar playing, physics genius (but socially awkward) roommate and I were on the couch watching re-runs of the show Connections, with the aforementioned James Burke. He was doing what he does and jumping us through time and leading us toward the ultimate connection when the scene cuts to him in the middle of the ocean and he says, “That’s why I’m on this oil rig!”

Well if I didn’t just jump off the couch and point at the TV and scream, “Ah ha!”, like I had just caught someone in the act of a heinous crime. My roommate just sat there completely confused, guitar in one hand, joint in the other. He’ll never know how awesome I felt at that moment.

After two years of waiting, the connection was made.   

Karma Chameleon


“Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.” [1][2]

Wikipedia’s two sources sum-up this notion quite nicely. I know many people that don’t believe in karma, but personally I like the idea of it. I’m not keen on the idea of a prime mover or god that keeps a tally and ensures the proper cause and effect, but for some reason I can totally get behind a Universe that is constantly attempting to keep itself balanced, with its entropy increasing, but at the same time keeping some order within the disorder.

Maybe I’m a Buddhist.

I know I’ve experienced moments where I’ve put something bad out and received something bad in return. I’ve also put a lot of good out into the world and received a lot of good in return. Now, I don’t do good things with the expectation that good things will come back to me, but I do try to make sure I’m putting more good out there than bad. I find that the reward for doing a good thing comes from simply seeing the impact it has on someone else. So I suppose I’m greedy in the sense that I really like seeing other people smile.

Once, I tried to fill the karma tank on purpose and it worked out for me, but generally speaking I try no to abuse the system. It was near Christmas time and I was in Toronto with a car full of people on a really busy street on our way to Ikea. The roads were pandemonium. About two blocks from the store, I stopped short of an intersection to allow a few cars to get into my lane. Someone in the car made a comment about that being a nice thing to do and I responded with, “Have you seen this place before? I need all the parking karma I can get!”

At that exact moment, a truck pulled around the corner with “KARMA” written in big brown block letters on the side.

We all just kind of sat there in traffic with our mouths agape as we inched our way closer to the parking lot. Upon entering the craziness that is an Ikea parking lot at Christmas, I drove to the closest row to the door. You never know, right? Well wouldn’t you know it, someone in the closest non-handicapped spot by the door pulled out just as I was approaching. Boom! Wish granted.

We’ve all had personal experiences just like this, regardless of whether or not you chalk them up to karma or simply coincidence. Either way, there’s no denying that there are ebbs and flows in everyone’s lives. It’s not too often, however, that you get to witness these ebbs and flows for a complete stranger. I’m talking about karma in action. I mean, actually seeing it unfold before your eyes in all its glory. To witness this as an unaffected third party is remarkable.

This train of thought all started one day at the office a little while ago. Someone in one of the back rows of the parking lot had pulled in a little too far and their front tires sunk into the swale (because we have one of those eco-friendly parking lots with grass swales instead of concrete barriers). He asked for help from a couple co-workers, but they weren’t getting him out. As the saying goes, he was done stuck good.

On the surface, this looks like a terrible situation, and it would be if not for the fact that after refusing to allow someone to call him a tow he proceeded to grab his things from the car and then leave our parking lot on foot and walk to the building next door. You see, his lot only had spots at the back and he didn’t want to walk so he parked in the back of our lot, closer to his building. I should point out at this point that this is not allowed. He was parking illegally in our lot to save him a few steps on his way to the office. Well, that’s what you get, buddy. If that’s not a perfect example of live-action karma I don’t know what is.

In fact, because I was riding a bit of a mean streak that day I went down and took the picture you see above and pasted it all over the Internet. I also left him  a note on his windshield with nothing on it but the word “Karma.” On top of all that our building leaseholder is going to bill him for the repairs to the eco-friendly swale. That seems like a lot of negative kick back for a minor parking infraction, but who am I question the Universe?

Call it what you want or call it nothing at all. You don’t need to be religious or spiritual to see that you should try to minimize the bad things you do. In other words, don’t be an asshat. As a corollary, you shouldn’t do good things expecting good things to happen in return. The return will take care of itself in due course.

It’s really quite simple: if you do good things then it stands to reason that others are more likely to do good things as well. Everyone benefits and we don’t have to keep track of the quid pro quo exchanges. Be content to let karma (or whatever) take care of the math.

It is said that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I think of karma as the luck portion of that equation. The preparation piece is the practice of doing good things. Opportunity is obviously the situations you put yourself in where you can do good all those good things. The more good you’re willing to do and the more chances you give yourself to it, the luckier you’ll be.

In summary, be excellent to each other.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bTvDKcxZuY]

~ Andrew