Karma and Country Music

Do you believe in karma? That idea that there is a guiding hand of fate, which can bring the consequences of your actions back to you as a payment or a punishment? Personally, I’ve always been more inclined to believe in chance than karma. I can believe that the sheer size and complexity of the universe has the power to bring things together in an infinite number of infinitely strange ways without an underlying force with a master plan and a taste for revenge. However, a few events in my life have made me wonder about this…

When I was in middle and high school, my little circle of friends had one ground rule: the host picks the music. When you were at someone else’s house (and later, riding in someone else’s car), you kept your hands away from the radio dial. This rule wasn’t something we ever discussed or took a vote on, but all were aware of its presence in our little clique. It started out innocently enough under the guise of simply being polite. But in time it became a necessity. And a major factor in that necessity had to do with me.

During those years several of my closest friends were listening to country music, while I was beginning my descent into the depths of classic rock. Now there is quite a bit of distance between Garth Brooks and The Beatles. This is not a matter of value–although at the time I probably would have said differently–it is merely a confluence of factors, among them time period, geographic location, culture, direct musical influences, and the products of two very different songwriters. But at the age of 16, bridging the gap between them was nearly impossible. My friends quickly grew tired of listening to All You Need Is Love, although all things considered they put up with it pretty well. But this was the height of my music snobbery and I had little to no tolerance for music I didn’t like. I also had (still have) a streak of passive aggressiveness. I couldn’t stand most of what they were listening to, but I kept it to myself… at least, I thought I did. I never touched my friends’ radios. I listened to what felt like tons of songs that I couldn’t stand and rarely asked to listen to something else. I was a perfect angel, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very aware of my body in those days and was equally unaware of my facial expressions. I was also blissfully ignorant of my habit of audibly sighing when I was feeling frustrated. The combination of grimace and drawn-out sigh tried their patience more than once and earned me a few terse admonishments from one friend in particular. To my knowledge, those conversations were the only time our little rule was spoken of.

Now I do take full responsibility for my own actions, conscious or unconscious. But I have to say that I do remember more than one occasion where the opening line of Help! was frantically echoed from the backseat of my car. One of my old friends still can’t stand The Beatles to this day and he isn’t shy about telling me so.  And another one was about ready to flog me for putting Here, There, and Everywhere on her wedding reception mix. She only relented because it was actually an appropriate song for the occasion and wasn’t one of the ones played on repeat during our high school years.

About now is the cue for the peanut gallery to pipe up and ask, “What the hell does this have to do with karma?” Well sit tight, kiddos. I promise I’ll get to my point soon.

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