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“My Karma Ran Over My Dogma”


I’ve often heard the phrases, “Karma’s a bitch” or “what goes around comes around.” The term ‘Karma’ and its tales of biting you in the ass, are thrown around pretty freely and usually when it’s convenient to do so. Yet, I don’t think too many people really follow the principles of Karma. Hell, if I took Karma seriously and believed in its results, I’d be expecting a few elbows to the face and a push down the subway stairs after my run to the train trying to rush home tonight.

To help us understand, Peter Conners paints a pretty clear picture of Karma in his book, Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinations of a Teenage Deadhead. In it he discusses the “Good Dead Karma” witnessed at any given venue during his time on tour. In particular, in 1988 Conners was headed to a summer show at Oxford Speedway in Maine in what was affectionately known as “The Bus” with his Dead family. A VW bus, a long drive, an acid trip behind the wheel… all necessary ingredients for following the Dead on tour. Unfortunately, Conners was missing the essential ingredient: a ticket. Despite this, he knew better than to worry.

“More than any other time in my life, I believed in karma while on tour. I wasn’t out to hurt or screw anyone over. I was there for the music, the good times.”

With this in mind, Conners knew he’d either get a ticket, or he’d survive the heartbreak.

Once they got to the Speedway parking lot, Conners hit the pavement looking for a ticket. He wasn’t looking for a scalper; scalpers were known as “scum” with bad intentions, bad Karma. He also wasn’t looking for the “miracle ticket” that would get you a free pass into the show. “The Bus” family was self sufficient enough to not have to revert to miracle tickets given purely out of kindness and I suspect, in the name of Karma. Instead, Conners would wander around hoping to buy a reasonably priced ticket off of an honest Deadhead looking to help out another Deadhead.

By showtime, he had warmed the hearts of a few and ended up with laughs and a good high, but no ticket. While everyone else was watching the show inside the gates, Conners was out in the parking lot bouncing freely to the distant sounds of music. And finally, it happened. On the other side of the gate, a fellow Deadhead held a ticket through the fence. Somehow his ticket hadn’t been properly torn on the way in and could pass off as a new, unused ticket. Without any verbal exchange, Conners took the ticket, rushed into the show, and joined the rest of his world in dancing to “Aiko Aiko”.

After such a long journey and with no ticket, Conners could have easily thrown in the towel, but he didn’t. Just like a seemingly untouched ticket could have been sold to an eager Deadhead for profit, but it wasn’t. The Deadhead community operated off of a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality where Karma prevailed.  This idea must seem preposterous to some, but I assure you it makes perfect sense. defines Karma as, “the force generated by a person’s actions…”. The consequences of your actions will depend on the actions themselves. In other words, you are responsible for what may come. This is quite different from Dogma which Webster defines as, “a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.” Dogma takes away a certain amount of responsibility from the person, and places it in the hands of faith or a higher being. It’s this distinction that brings to light the saying, “My Karma ran over my Dogma.” In this saying, personal responsibility of your actions and their consequences trumps the passivity of good faith.

There’s a slew of religious discussion coming on, but I’m not here to get into that (not tonight, anyway). I wanted to share this story with you because for me, it’s an example of a group, brought together by a common bond, creating a way of life that works for everyone and that honors why they are there in the first place. Now, it makes sense that I’m constantly reading about how peaceful and loving the Dead audiences were. Even when undercover narcs were busting the party and throwing Deadheads in jail, everything remained peaceful. Not exactly what I would expect from thousands of passionate young people tripping on acid in a packed venue ripe with the potential for anarchy.

What’s your take on Karma? Is the philosophy a realistic one outside of the gates of a Grateful Dead show? Did the Grateful Dead promote Karma through their music or was it just coincidence that their audiences grasped the idea?

Share your thoughts below or email me at

“My spy dog see your spy dog
Sitting by the Bayou
My spy dog see your spy dog
Gonna set your tail on fire

Hey now, (hey now)
Hey now, (hey now)
AIko aiko un day
Jockomo feeno ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay”

Aiko Aiko

5 Comments leave one →
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    05/24/2010 12:03 am

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  2. 06/16/2010 8:21 am

    Thanks a lot for this article! Really interesting.


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