Those dark seductive eyes stared across the table at him, luring him into her thoughts. Unforgiving cries from her consciousness as she chose her words ever so slowly, deliberately, and replied to his question, "Never once, never. It just doesn't happen that you consider any other person around you as something that would have any affect on me. Or for that matter, to even think that, well, anyone around me is a conscious being. It has never occurred to me, ever. This concept that you have explained to me, this Karma, is interesting; certainly something that gives a reasonable explanation for existence. But it does not give credence to any suggestion that any person out there, even you, actually has importance."
"And the fact that all the people around you, everyone that has had interactions with you from the day you were born, were cognizant beings, capable of independent thought, actions, love, hate, everything else living people do; has not had the slightest or remotest bearing on your feelings?" He said to her.
"How do I know that they do, have independent thought I mean?"
"I don't understand. We all have independent thought, free will. The ability to do what we want, to do good, or not, is what makes us human. Living humans with free will and the ability to understand our actions set us apart from the lower forms of life. Yes, to a degree we are motivated by instinct, but we still have consciousness; and the ability to determine to a certain degree our future. In fact to consider that we have a future is I think another concept that sets us apart from other life forms. We influence our own karma by our choices, our belief in our future and our ability to see beyond immediacy."
Her lashes fluttered as she closed her eyes for several moments, then opened them again revealing the same darkness, that same depth, "No, it doesn't work that way. If indeed karma is a reality, then as you have explained it, everything that has happened to me all of my life has been predetermined as a specific set of circumstances in an attempt to further my existence in my next life by my actions that are a response to that which is preordained in this one. These men that I killed, were in fact nothing more than ephemeral beings. Bits of fluff, non-thinking, non-cognizant non-living things whose existence was based solely on my need to interact with them. Whether or not they died at my hand is irrelevant. They did not exist as life as you define it in your world of karma."
She said all of that with no change in her expression at all. She just continued to stare at him, beautiful, deadly. The one thing he noticed about her was that she never once glanced up at the mirror behind him to view herself. An unusual lack of vanity in such an attractive woman. Glancing down at the handcuffs that chained her to the heavy metal table, she did twist and move her wrists around from time to time. Certainly they must be uncomfortable. Her pale skin was red under the metal.
“It’s not possible to just dismiss the lives of everyone about you as non-living.”
“Why not? As I stated, their very existence in this reality is to interact with me. That’s given as a basic precept of karma. I’m living my life, but according to you, although I have free will, whatever choices I make will determine the path of my existential soul after my demise in this life. Those circumstances presented to me by every person I meet are by definition, predetermined. Therefore, those beings have no free will; they are playing out my personal reality in the vast cosmos of my existence. They are ephemeral. They are of no importance. And some of them died.”
“Perhaps you are looking at predetermined circumstances as too inclusive. It isn’t the entirety of your life as being predetermined. That is just not the way it is. The circumstances of predestination are pretty much ones of basic life, you know, are you male, female. Will you be born unto wealth or squalor? Will you have beauty, or will you be the beast. Things like that. From there, how you live your life, how you interact with other people here and now, are what determine your existential path in the afterlife. Certainly there may be other predetermined events, such as bearing a mongoloid baby, or having to deal with brutal deaths of people close to you. How you deal with these things are what make you different, good or bad, from every other cognizant being.”
“Well I think that is just a wishful convenience for you Doctor. When you say these things, I don’t think you’re really listening to yourself. You have just defined the ephemeral aspect of these beings. You want to give them free will. But you also state that they exist only to present circumstances to me for the purpose of my ability to interact with them. You are attempting to force a duality of existence. You can’t have it both ways Doc, really, which is it? Are they ephemeral as I believe, or do they have free will, and their choice was to be mongoloid, or brain dead, or die young by some brutal means as you stated? Which is it?”
“Well, that is interesting. The whole basis of predestination does in fact include a means to test our free will; interaction with persons that die prematurely, get maimed, or some such other problems happening to them. How do we know if these tragedies are part of that predetermination or not? Well, I can’t say for sure. I just believe that everyone that I meet, everyone that I see, every single person on this planet that is alive, is a thinking cognizant being. Some are not as intelligent as we would like them all to be, but they do indeed live, and possess free will.
“Really? Well Doc, that is an interesting thought. But it does presuppose that you are yourself in fact able to express free will. There is a conundrum here, if you are anything more than an ephemeral being that is here to provide nothing more than background interaction, a cacophony of perceived life forces for me to deal with, then to what extent is your existence possessing true free will? Or in fact am I here to provide background interaction, an existence whose sole purpose is to bestow upon you new concepts and new ideas; then how can you be certain that I am nothing more than an ephemeral concept, a vision, a creation whose only reason for existence, if I do indeed exist; is to cause you to think?”
“I can’t answer that. It falls under the same category as I suppose, belief in a supreme being. There is no proof, there is just faith. I believe that you have free will, and that all that I have thought and believed in my existence up to now proves to me that I too, have free will.”
“I think that is a cop out Doc. I mean really, when you were ordered to evaluate me, did you believe that it was just happenstance that our lives have interconnected. Or do you believe that I am here for one purpose and one purpose only. And that is to interact with you, perhaps to alter your thoughts, your beliefs, maybe your fundamental nature.” She said all this as she stared straight at him, no movement whatsoever in her expression.
“Well Lorena, I think you have a rather interesting opinion of yourself. You are but one of many persons of whom I am spending court ordered time with. I do not now, nor could I ever consider the thought that neither you, nor I, are not what we appear. People. Just people. Some make wrong choices, and it is up to me to try to determine what the capacity of their minds were when those choices were made.”
“Well Doc, what do you think my capacity was at the time of these, well, alleged murders?”
“That isn’t something that I can discuss at this time. We have only talked for less than an hour so far. I will say this though, I find you charming, intelligent, quick witted and have an excellent comprehension of new concepts. That is if it is true that you have never actually talked about or read anything about karma as you stated.”
“And that I suppose is something that will be hard for you to accept. I mean I have heard of karma, Buddha, Confuscious, Hinduism and even Catholicism. But I have never taken the time, or for that matter had any desire to learn any of this stuff. Your questions when we first began our conversation were basically an attempt to find out my beliefs.”
A look of startled comprehension came over the doctor’s face, and he began, “Yes, as you stated then, you have no belief in a supreme being, but you did not want to be classified as an atheist. Correct?”
“That’s right Doc. And let’s face it, I have found this all very tedious. But when you brought up this concept of karma, I was intrigued. It does tend to explain to me some things that I never really considered before. It explains why I am surrounded by people like you, them,” as she pointed her hand toward the windows of the cell with uniformed men about, “everyone else. I have always just thought of the beings around me as just being drones. Like male bees, worthless, useless. Able to provide one thing only, and in their case, just background life forms for me to utilize as I saw fit.”
“And none of which are living beings in your view of the world, correct?”
“Well Doc, I wouldn’t say not living. But certainly not important.”
“Lorena, I’m trying to understand where, and also how, you formed your belief system. How did all of this happen that you look upon the rest of the world as unimportant.”
She looked at him with this quizzical expression for half a minute before beginning, “I think you probably consider me a bit of a hedonist. Most men do. It is something that I must admit that I agree with. Years ago in college I took some philosophy courses. Have you ever heard of Jeremy Bentham? He pioneered the philosophy of ‘felicific calculus’. I think that best describes my belief system. You know, how it is that I can justify the murder, sorry, the alleged murder of all of these men that have been found.”
“Well I must admit that the name Bentham I’ve heard of, but I’m not certain what his contributions are.”
“Doc, he’s my hero. He was a true hedonist. His philosophy is one that provides a specific formula for calculating the moral outcome of your actions based on the degree of anticipated pleasure or pain.”
“Ahh, Lorena, does this mean that you believe that you have a sense of morality and that your actions do indeed fit within the moral constraints of society?”
“An interesting question. First let me say that morality as you see it is a product of the dictums of society at large. I, on the other hand, believe that morals apply to me in a way that serve my purpose, my precepts of my personal ideal of morality.”
“Well, this is interesting. But I don’t believe it. I think that you’re playing a role, one that puts you in the center of attention.”
She interrupted him, “Ah Doc, but don’t we all do that?”
He thought about it for half a minute before responding, “To a degree. By far the vast majority of people enjoy when their lives bring them into situations where they are the center. However, I believe that you engineer opportunities, and in fact if you aren’t the center of all that goes on around you, then in your mind, you construct your own background world that helps you to do so. Or at least for you to feel that you are.”
She looked at him curiously, “And what brings you to that conclusion?”
“Well Lorena, remember that I’m a doctor of psychiatry. As I consider what you have going on, I think it must be exhausting to be you. With this carefully constructed fantasy world that you have created and having to exist not only there, but within the fabric of reality. You must be mentally exhausted.”
For the first time since they began the interview, a slight smile appeared. “Well that is one interpretation. I don’t think you should discount the idea though that I am just plain bored. Spending this time has been interesting to me, but don’t forget that when it comes right down to it, none of this matters to me at all.”
With a motion from the guard at the window, he knew their time was up for now. Four guards came in and took her away. The doctor sat and thought about all that this woman had said to him, then he shivered. She was very scary he decided, smart, and scary. A deadly combination.