My biggest reward is to treat myself to a massage. I love them. Maybe because I sit (poorly, with bad posture) at a computer for 16 hours a day, but I’ve always loved them. If I could find a job where I got paid in massages, I’d work endless hours.

Which got me thinking….

I already work endless hours. By choice, admittedly, because I love writing, and there are parts post-writing that have to be done if I want my words to find their way to readers, so I end up spending a ton of hours on non-writing stuff, but my default is to work. (It’s 5am, BTW… I made a cup of coffee, filled my waterfall, and sat down to write).

The nature of work has changed (and I’m not sure how far I want to go down this tangent) We used to work our own land to provide for our families (struggling to not tangent again into my Polish/German/Italian heritage and instead thinking about it from the perspective of the pioneers who settled the west where I currently work). Back then, we were literally paid in the fruits of our labors. Life was determined by factors beyond our control–bad harvest = pay cut.

Now, the pendulum has swung far in the other direction for anyone with a skill that they can exploit via the advancements in tech. If you have a skill you can farm out to small businesses via freelancing, your bank account is limited only to the amount of hours you want to commit and the number of clients you want to find. It’s been years since I’ve lived in the same state as a client; I have one that I’ve never talked to via anything other than email. (trying not to tangent here into freelancers, FTW!) Bottom line, we all work, whether for salary or an hourly rate.

I do work. They pay me. Money shows up in my bank account. I spend it. I do work, they pay me etc.

Long gone are the days that I finished a day’s work and was handed cash, or potatoes, or gold coin. Money exists only as pixels on a screen.

It’s not even paper anymore.

It’s pixels. On. A screen.

I don’t write checks; payments get deducted from my account. (more pixels)

Kids need lunch money? Pixels.

Car needs new tires? Pixels.

I don’t even sign my name to paper. I sign a screen. Pixels.

Cash doesn’t change hands. (My father would tangent here to the fact that it’s not even currency. Hi, Dad! *waves*) Silver doesn’t change hands. We don’t barter services. I don’t give you potatoes in exchange for fixing my horse’s broken leg.

It’s pixels.

Right?

Okay, so here’s where my thinking led me (and back to massages, stay tuned).

What if it’s not money? What if it’s something else?

I can think of those pixels any way I want. You and I and the bank have an agreement that the pixels represent potatoes/gold coin/dollar bills. Each of those an evolution of the one before.

What if the next evolution is karma points?

What if we shifted our thinking so the pixels didn’t represent dollar bills anymore, but karma points?

I do a job and you give me karma. I buy I thing, I spend the karma, passing it on to the owner of Walmart, or Taco Bell, or my massage therapist.

That makes me pause, I have to be honest. Once upon a time, when potatoes were scarce, there probably wasn’t a lot of frivolous spending on the things I pack home from Walmart/Costco/Amazon.

(and I could tangent here again to, “Are we any happier now? Or are we still struggling to find happiness?)

Now my house is overcrowded and overloaded with so. much. stuff. I cannot leave Walmart without buying something stupid that I don’t need, exchanging pixels for it at the checkout lane. Then I get it home, it breaks, blah blah blah.

And the pixels in my account never seem to change. I always have too much month at the end of my pixels. (tangent into, “Why can’t I keep a budget?”)

 

But, karma.

 

Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म; IPA: [ˈkərmə] means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). 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.

 

If I start thinking of pixels as karma points, the entire atmosphere around commerce changes. If my good deeds of work are earning karma points from a client, I treat that job differently. I’m no longer earning phantom money. Now, I’m earning karma points that I can exchange with other people.

Bad karma, then would be the frivolous, mindless spending I do at Walmart, buying things I don’t need. I begin to purchase differently. Do I really want to spend my karma points on this THING, or do I want an experience? Or do I want to save it and spend it on something worthy of what it took to earn?

The pixels have weight again. They’re potatoes we can see in our root cellar. They’re a bag of gold we can bounce in our hand. The karma gives sustenance to a critical component in our every lives.

They’re pixels; we can assign them whatever value we choose. (we don’t even have to tell the bank that we’re doing it!)

 

So back to massages; I have a membership to Massage Envy (tangent into finding a good therapist is like kissing frogs). Every month my bank account gets debited and I exchange pixels for a one-hour massage. I’m on my fourth month and because they’re getting debited automatically I have to go every month without the usual, “Oh, yeah, I need to schedule a massage,” and then eight months go by and I still haven’t scheduled it, which makes me mad at myself that I’m not taking time for me, which makes me work harder, and then I finally schedule one, and then another eight months of this vicious cycle. The monthly exchange of pixels forces me to go because I’ve already pre-paid them–and honestly, with some things, like taking care of myself, I need systems in place.

Bonus: when I exchange karma points for a massage, it becomes a net trade, because what I get back is more karma through touch and taking care of me, and connecting with another person through service.

It’s going to take a while to make the mental shift from dollar bills to karma points, but after only a month, I’m noticing that there’s a sense of gratitude, of paying it forward, of stewardship that I’ve struggled with my whole life.

Treating the pixels like something that holds power in the universe is a leap, I get it. But so is treating them like they’re silver.

To karma,

XO

jen