Does what you do come back to you?

The law of return states that the person caging this tiger is really, really fucked.

Every time I’m a jerk, the universe lets me know.

It just doesn’t always do it in a timely manner.

Often, when life hands me a basket of crap, I’ll realize that I once handed someone else a very similar basket. Didn’t pull my weight on that group assignment in high school? College group work, here we come. Looked at that overweight person and felt sorry for them because I was young and svelte? Well, your lurking hormone imbalance will have something to say about that later. You’ve met the workplace bully? Something familiar about her perhaps? Think back. Farther. Farther.

As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to study these lessons and take them to heart. I feel less jerk-like by the day, and I do seem to get handed fewer unwanted gifts by the universe. The effect is less like a boomerang, and more like a convoluted student play where it never ends and everyone changes roles until they’ve been in each one. And as we shift roles, we learn empathy. ¬†Except for those people who don’t. I’m always on the lookout to see how my theory holds up, so I watch those people carefully. The truth is that once you scratch the surface of their lives, they tend to live in a mess that they don’t understand and are just doing their best to ignore.

The financially successful narcissist has kids who keep him at arm’s length because their therapists recommended it. The psychopath has constructed a world where no one knows her and everyone thinks well of her; except the people she’s hurt. They team up and she eventually loses her job. Also, her wealthy boyfriend won’t marry her, but he can’t put his finger on why he’s too unsettled by her for a wedding band.

For those of us who work magic, I suspect that the stakes are higher. When we take action in the world, we’re often borrowing strength from spirits, gods, elements, the universe at large-put simply, we have helpers. I’ve always thought of it like pushing a tether ball. If you push it alone, it bounces back with the same force you put into it, and you have to deal with that. If you push it with a friend, and your friend steps away, it comes back with all of that force on your lonely self. Bigger push, bigger consequences. When I describe this idea to other practitioners, they often tell me that they’ve come to the same conclusion.

I don’t, however, buy into the idea of a rule of three. I think that just rhymed nicely and made it into our consciousness through skilled marketing. Most of the other people I ask also don’t buy into it. The general belief seems to be that you’ll get yours, just not in triplicate.

Some people say that they don’t buy into the idea of return at all. But I don’t know any of them or their traditions well enough to say whether they suffer for this belief, or can do what they like, free of the cosmic tether balls to the face that the rest of us are subject to.

What is your take on the idea of return?