Chewing gum karma


I distinctly recall that as a kid, there was an idea about gum. For every piece you spit out on the ground, you would later wind up with some gum stuck to your shoe.

It’s a concept I don’t think about nearly as much these days. Probably because I don’t chew gum that often. Possibly because—hold on for a second while I find some wood to knock on—I haven’t stepped in any gum for quite some time. Still… gum… toss it on the ground, step in it later.

It is, at the very foundation, the perfect illustration of karma in action. Or, more precisely, karma in action-reaction.

There was never any schedule placed on the results. No expiration date. Nothing like a promise that if you tossed away your used gum today that within seven days you would need to clean some off your shoe. Just something very simple.

Throw that gum carelessly on the ground, step in it—literally and figuratively—later.

That’s balance, pure and simple. And balance you aren’t likely to find in many other sayings.

Take Murphy, for instance. The basic idea of that old law is that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. No balance there. No evening out of good and bad. (Just pessimism at its finest.)

Of course, if we’re nodding in the direction of karma, perhaps Yin and Yang would be a better place to look than Murphy. Trick is, Yin and Yang suggest a balance within a whole. A good and evil, existing within one. Not an evil result for an evil act. I’m not so certain that matches up with what we may simplistically summarize as a “toss the gum, suffer the consequences” scenario.

What we’re dealing with is more Newtonian.

(Yes. Seriously. Newtonian.)

When it comes to motion, Newton’s third law states that there is an equal and opposite reaction for every action. If we take our gum situation, that balance idea matches up somewhat nicely. Litter and you’ll find yourself needing to clean gum off your shoes. Action… reaction… balance.

I don’t chew gum the way I did so many years ago. I tended to be a Bubble Yum guy. Grape. But that wasn’t the only brand I’d buy. They had some amazing stuff at the concession stand of a baseball field I played at. Kind of funny how superstitions get started. Wearing a specific shirt under my uniform, one batting glove on the glove hand, and a stick of apple gum and pack of Jolly Rancher candies from the concession stand before the game.

I used to play basketball in a league that held games at a local armory. In the corner of the building, next to the court, was a soft drink machine that offered carbonated tropical punch flavored soda. Years after I played in the league, I was hundreds of miles from that armory near my college campus. And there, in a cooler at a convenience store, were bottles of Tahitian Treat soda… the same stuff I thought I’d never see again. Occasionally you find things in places you’d never expect.

Which in a strange way leads me back to a drive in the car a few days ago, and a package of gum my wife had left behind. (It doesn’t really bring me back to it, but I was off on one heck of a tangent. Although… in a funny twist of irony… I actually was just two blocks away from the college campus and the location of that convenience store. Weird.) I took a piece, and a while later was ready to get rid of it. I was still driving, and the packaging didn’t include a wrapper to use. Dare I risk rolling down the window and tempting karma?

I suppose I would like to believe in a balance for life. The trouble is, I’d like to find something a bit more good for the good to consider. But as you probably know, no good deed goes unpunished.


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