Back in the day when movie-going audiences were losing their collective minds because Robin Williams was not only taking on dramatic roles, but absolutely nailing them, he was in a movie called Dead Again. The film, featuring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson when they were one of Hollywood’s power couples, is a whodunit thriller that leans heavily into the ideas of karma and reincarnation.
Williams plays Cozy Carlisle, a former psychiatrist who lost his license for some pretty sketchy behaviour and now works in a grocery store. Mike Church (Branagh) is a detective who, after meeting Carlisle on another case, comes back for his advice when he is asked to help Grace (Thompson), a woman suffering from amnesia.
Without giving away any surprises – because this movie is twistier than the Splügen Pass – at one point, Carlisle informs Church that:
Karmically, self defense is very cool.
I remember this line getting a full-on laugh from the audience when I saw the movie in the theatre. Hell, I laughed, mainly because, while in reality karma is a much more complex concept, for most people it means something along the lines of, “Be good, or bad things will happen to you.” And the idea of self defense just doesn’t quite seem to jive with that notion.
Over the years, the significance of this quote for me has shifted a bit. See, my job for a couple of centuries has been to get credit for defective merchandise. You know when you buy something, and it doesn’t work right, and you return it and get your money back? Well, the stuff you return comes to me, who repeats that process on a corporate level.
And I manage to buy more defective shit than any ten of my friends combined.
Everything from CDs with the wrong music recorded onto them, to improperly milled furniture that falls apart when you use it, to a brand new car that spent more of the first two months I owned it in the shop than in my driveway – if I buy it, chances are it’ll be fucked up.
This has led to a lot of jokes with friends who find my bad luck understandably hilarious. Good brings good, after all, and bad brings bad. Therefore, defective must bring defective. From them asking me to please not buy them anything because they’re afraid of what might go wrong, to me asking them to buy things on my behalf as a way of circumventing a system that seems to be stacked against me and I’ll slip them the money under the table, to my claim that I’m a minimalist because if it’s all going to be broken why buy it in the first place – we get an awful lot of entertainment out of a silly notion and our equally silly ways of combating it.
I guess that makes karmic self defense cool in more ways than one.
To see previous posts in my Quote series, click here.