On Wednesday of last week, I became a little philosophical after quite a number of hours awake (30+). As one afflicted with bipolar disorder, this sometimes happens, though not always with the philosophical turn.

But something had been on my mind since that morning. Once again, my mom had affirmed her belief that “what goes around comes around” and I was struck—again—by how simplistic a view of life this is.

Now I’ve heard about Karma, but “what goes around comes around” seems to be a simplistic view of even that. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, I’ve never gotten the impression that Karma will unfailingly swing around and bite the offender in the butt in this life. My impression of Karma is that, yes, sometimes it takes a direct approach and hits the offender in this life, but that it’s more likely to mean that the offender, in the afterlife or next life will suffer for the offenses they gave in this life, as a way for them to learn the lesson they failed to learn before. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I’ve had of what Karma is for a long time. Since my teen years at least.

When my mom says “I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around,” she always means, without fail, that she expects that the offender will experience some sort of bad luck or unhappy event in this life. Their comeuppance is on the way. She may not know when, but she’s absolutely certain it will happen.

And that, to me, is a very simplistic view of life.

The fact is, life is not that simple. Life is by its very nature uncertain. It’s insensible—sense cannot be made from it. Not any real, true, firm and unalterable sense. Sure, we can make sense of some things, but these are all little things, minor things—like, I can make sense of my mom from my own understanding of myself and the choices I’ve made that have brought me to a point where I can see into her a lot more clearly than I think she realizes. But even that doesn’t give me the ability to understand everything about life. I can make some sense of it all, but not complete sense.

And that’s because the world is complicated and uncertain. And I accept that life has those qualities. All I can do is my best to understand what I can. But for people like my mom, those complications and uncertainties are frightening. So she, and they, seek a simple way to understand it.

We all want to understand life. But I’ve realized something about this search for understanding of life. There are two basic ways to “understand” life. One can take either a simplistic view, such as “what goes around comes around,” or one can set out to really work on gaining a deeper understanding of oneself, the world, and life. This requires a number of things, chiefly the willingness to be mindful of oneself.

Now, it’s no secret I write. And I freely admit my writing is, at its core, little more than me seeking understanding of life. I’m trying to make sense of the insensible with my writing. But! It is far more complex than tacking on a simplistic “what goes around comes around” view of life and being satisfied with that. I could never be satisfied with such a simplistic view of life. Life is far more complicated and uncertain than that. Life doesn’t tie things up that neatly, not even when it seems to be offering a neatly-wrapped package tied up with a pretty ribbon.

Life is messy. Life is insensible. No one can make complete and total sense out of life, because it is always uncertain. There are any number of philosophies we can adopt or adhere to in order to try and make sense of life, but the fact is, those philosophies are only the beginning. Clinging to them as the end-all and be-all of Understanding is a dead-end. Yes, it can be comforting to adopt the focused view of life religion and philosophy seem to offer, but if that’s only as far as it goes, it’s not doing much good.

I realized one major difference between myself and my mom on Wednesday. My life philosophy changes day by day. Sometimes only a little, sometimes a great deal. But it’s always in flux. Mom’s life philosophy is, to me, frighteningly static. And, I think it has been most of my life. Where she clings to the mere beginnings of comprehension, I have made efforts, in part because of my mental illness, and in part because I simply want to do so, to push myself away from those beginnings. I started doing this back in 1988, when I wrote my first Star Trek “novel” in a series of pocket folders with prongs, on college ruled notebook paper. Back then, I didn’t realize just what sort of inner journey I was embarking upon; all I knew was that it felt good to write, and I enjoyed it immensely, and it gave me a better escape from the difficulties of my life than even reading had up to that point offered. But it taught me to really look at people, to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations. Through my writing, I’ve gained a far deeper, more complete and complex, and much more nuanced understanding of life than I think my mom has ever had.

And even with that, I still can’t make sense of it. But that’s okay. I don’t need life to make sense in order to be comfortable with it. All I need to do is keep doing my best to learn, and I don’t intend to ever stop doing that.