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Karma Cleanser 

Dear Readers:

Seven years ago this month, the Karma Cleanser column launched on the following impious note:

Dear Karma Cleanser: I laughed at a little fat girl. Luckily, she didn't see me.

Assuming the child was 14 at the time, as I posited in my original answer, she'd be a healthy 21-year-old now. And now, it's time for that fat lady to do some singing.

After more than 700 confessions aired, the Karma Cleanser is going on hiatus. Better yet, let's call it a sabbatical, a word that I've just discovered traditionally indicates a leave taken in the seventh year. Who knew?

The column wasn't initially intended to be heavy, or perhaps even heady. I was working for Creative Loafing when my boss, Ken Edelstein, commissioned a few of us to brainstorm for a new feature. His assignment was vague: Come up with a forum for readers' dirty laundry, a corner of a page good for a few giggles but probably not a vehicle for actual advice.

That night, I was wrapped up in some metaphysical book or another (I can't recall now whether it was Gary Zukav's The Seat of the Soul or Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements) when a line from a Kina song got wedged in my head: "Karma's gonna visit you too, you gotta pay for the things you put me through."

We decided to run the Karma Cleanser column sans byline as a way to give it a mysterious, oracular gravity. I also knew my responses would be less rooted in any strict Hindu interpretation of karma, but more influenced by the New Thought writers I admired.

And readers threw many a messy quandary at us. The drunken squabbles soon gave way to more grave matters, felony crimes and fatal mistakes. Yikes! It's hard to be flip when responding to a letter about an adoption gone wrong. Still, the Karma Cleanser tried to walk the razor-thin line between clever banter and caring, soul-affirming counsel. When I failed, the readers called me on it.

I noticed that many of the letters had to do with three "R's" of life: romance, roommates and racism. I couldn't count how many times I've read about toothbrushes maliciously dipped in vile substances. But it was the racism letters than usually led to the loudest reader reaction, which probably says plenty about the karma of our country at large.

Now, my karmic crystal ball is going dark. I'm shifting my attention to writing a travel book and finishing a long-delayed memoir manuscript. I've never been great at saying "good bye," so consider this a "catch you later." For those who want to keep chasing the dragon, look for the Karma Cleanser to carry on in a more limited capacity online at www.thekarmacleanser.com. Thank you for your stories and for opening your soul to mine for seven amazing years.

Keep learning. Keep growing.

The Karma Cleanser

Tray Butler

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