I always had a difficult time reconciling two completely different aspects of my personality. I used to define myself as an atheist. Upon further deliberation and with help from my personal theologian (my father, the staunch Catholic), I discovered I was actually agnostic. Now, in order to properly define this term, one need only look to one simple statement: “I don’t know.” But even that doesn’t really define me anymore. Again, after some rigorous counsel with the old man, he labeled me a “believer.” And so far, that’s been working out for me.
And yet, I have believed in Karma since right around the time I was old enough to know what that word meant. Wikipedia says Karma (I say Wikipedia, not Webster’s Dictionary, because honestly, which carries more social significance anymore?) means “the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, that governs all life.” I have come to think of Karma, at least the definition that has come to have meaning in my life, as a loose interpretation of that principle that can be translated into one simple statement. To wit, the Universe is smiling on me. Let me explain.
For more than a year, I worked the overnight shift at The Hotel. During that time, my Ipod was my best friend. I have long had an affinity (some might say an obsession) with stand-up comedy. I have been an aficionado of it for many years and I have my favorites (Carlin, Hicks, Lewis Black, and of course, the venerable Patton), my second tier guys (Dave Chappelle, Rock, Giraldo, Louis CK) and the honorable mentions (Denis Leary, Kevin James, and many others). In this “many others” category was Jimmy Schubert, a comic of whom I had exactly one Comedy Central Presents show (20 minutes). And on those long overnight shifts when it was just me and about 30-40 dogs and cats twisting the night away, I listened the hell outta that show. One of my high-water marks of any good stand-up is he/she has to be able to keep the audience engaged through every joke in the act. Schubert did this superbly with a bit about conjoined twins who liked to date and wanted to be a country/western singer(s).
What’s this got to do with Karma or the Universe smiling on me? Come on, I’ll bring you back to me. This morning on the local Zoo Animal Circus morning radio show was none other than Jimmy Schubert. He’s performing in town soon and in the melee of conversations the guys were having, Schubert mentioned that very bit about dating the Siamese twin lady. If you know anything about stand-up, you know that comics recycle their acts all the time, some of them for more than a decade. But the fact that Schubert happened to talk about that one bit that I have loved for many years was, well, for now, it was a coincidence.
Okay, so you’re probably thinking “Andy, that’s nice that you heard one of your funny men talk about a routine that you like. Now I’ll pat you on the head and give you some Jell-O.” Stay tuned. It gets a lot weirder. After the car trip when I heard this comic on the radio, I returned home and talked to a housemate. Apparently, the landlord/sober living mentor that owns my house had been over that morning and, after a random room check, was none too happy about the various beds that had been left unmade and the dishes that had been left out all night (one of the core values of the house is “your mother/wife/girlfriend doesn’t live here, so clean up your damn messes). What does this have to do with the Universe smiling on me? Well, smart-ass, I’ll tell you. That picture of my bed? That’s how it looked this morning when I left. I had done such a shoddy job of making my bed yesterday, I made my bed first thing this morning and stacked the pillows just right and arranged the sheets and blankets in such a way that it would be like crawling into a womb when I took my afternoon nap today (I wake up for school around 5 AM every morning these days and have come to love my afternoon siesta). And I was the one that slapped two “$10 Fine” Post-its on the dirty glasses on the kitchen counter. So not only was I setting a good example for the new guys in the house, thus validating my quasi-role model status in sober living, but my landlord had seen all of it, thus proving myself to him as well (no doubt a good thing since he had written me a recommendation for a scholarship, which he doesn’t do). Well alright, you’re 2 for 2, Andy. What else you got? Dig this …
Less than an hour after I got home, I went out on the patio to have a smoke and look at Facebook happenings. The very first thing I saw was a photograph, shared by my buddy, of a NASA rocket launch and in the foreground of the photo was the silhouette of a frog being blasted right off the freaking planet. And that has what to do with the story? This morning, right before I left campus, I found a frog hopping around on the men’s room floor. After quickly researching frogs in my veterinary technology textbook and seeing no evidence that a frog could have rabies or some other nefarious condition, I obtained a paper towel and went into the men’s room. The frog had made its way back to the corner stall and seemed to be assessing the fact that there was no more floor to hop on. After a brief scuffle (“I’m trying to help you out, dude, hold still …”) I cast the towel over him (my teacher had warned me that it was a probably a tree frog and that he would probably pee on me) and dropped him off in the grass outside. He stayed there for a moment, blinked a couple times, said “Thanks” and went a-hopping into the sunshine.
Am I saying that the frog that was blasted into oblivion by the NASA rocket was reborn into the frog on the men’s room floor at Iowa Western Community College? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying. I mean the shuttle launched in Florida last week, about the time it would take (for a tree frog) for a leisurely cosmic trip to Iowa so I would find him in the john. A long way to go (for the Creator of the Universe and the frog) to tell me that God is smiling on me at this particular moment in my life? Perhaps. But if I score a B or higher on the test I took right before I found the frog, I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.