Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Karma Chameleon

Karma. Kamma. Yesterday, I thought about karma--it'd been brought up in conversation. Later, Shawn and I went to our favorite Thai restaurant, and while waiting for a seat (it was a very busy night, for our little Thai eatery) we noticed a stand of pamphlets on the bar. Free. Take One. Leave a Donation. These little books are messages by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Once again, I thought about Karma. And guess what, amid the 4 or 5 booklets was "Kamma in Buddhism". My donation made, I took the book and we perused it while we waited for our dinner. Ask and the universe will provide, huh?

So, prior to looking at this message from Mr. Bhikkhu, here were my preconceived ideas about Karma (or Kamma) culled from pop culture, yoga classes, other people, reading other people's versions of, and random definitions that somehow made it into my head without my notice.

1. Karma is what you get when you do something bad.
2. Karma's a "bitch"
3. Karma is the great leveler
4. Some people will go through life never having to answer for their mis-deeds
5. Who am I to judge who should have their comeuppance and who shouldn't?
6. George Bush will have to come to terms with himself, someday, whether the world sees it or not
7. It's probably not a good idea to wish bad on those that have made you mad or hurt you, because isn't that the same thing?

There's more I can add to the list, but these are a few of the thoughts I had during the day, before taking the "Kamma in Buddhism" booklet. Sleep not coming easily, last night--might have had something to do with the double latte I'd consumed around 7pm--I thought about a few of those aforementioned ideas surrounding my understanding of Karma, and the little bit of information gathered from the booklet. First of all, I immediately determined NEVER to use the phrase "Karma's a bitch" again. To be honest, it's not really a phrase I've often used as I am not fond of the word "bitch" since it has derogatory implications regarding women. And really, Karma a bitch? I don't think so. If Karma is simply a result of action taken by an individual, then it's just what it is. There's a chance that the individual won't like the outcome, but, hey, maybe you should have thought about that before you stole that candy bar from the corner store and then got sick from too much sugar? Karma isn't to blame for what happens in your life. To say that it's a bitch is to say that the results of your action are going to be served up to you by a vengeful, nasty, spiteful, overbearing, female spirit or however you'd envision Karma to look. I don't think that Karma is spiteful. That sort of defeats the purpose, right?

Why do we need to know the essence of Kamma? Because our lives are inseparable from it and happen according to it. To be more precise, we can say that life is actually a stream of kamma. Wanting to do something (kamma, action) causes one to perform actions and receive the results of those actions; then, desires to do other actions arise again and again incessantly. Therefore, life is merely patterns of kamma.
The clearly defining words of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

Looks to me like Karma's job isn't to judge our actions. This probably means that it's not my job to judge whether or not someone else ought to get a bit of their own karmic comeuppance. A frustrating thought, since there are plenty of powerful people in this world who continue to get away with, quite literally, murder and do so without any seeming consequences. One wise soul mentioned to me that such people have to live with themselves and we have no idea what that may be like for them. Ahhhh...if only I could take comfort in that thought. Well, maybe I can. Ultimately, I am responsible for me. I can make choices in my life and my behavior towards others that can reverberate through the universe. Wishing ill on others, even people that haven't done much to earn any kind of respect from me, is just another way of making "bad" karma. Wishing that they find peace in their own souls and can rise above their selfish, harmful acts might be a better road to take. I don't know, yet. I'm not enlightened enough to let go, so easily. I think that I want to be. It's a lot of work to hold a grudge; takes a lot of energy that is best served elsewhere. And yet--this is a whole 'nother can of worms--holding onto anger and hate and fear is how some people feel alive. If you're so used to that kind of drama in your life, and you constantly seek it out, I'm sure it can feel empty when you don't have it. It's not really emptiness, it's just different than what you are used to. To a degree, I am sure that most of us have that tendency. Is this related to karma? I think it is, and I haven't gotten all the connections just yet. I am typing out loud, here. On a discovery of unformed ideas that haven't had a chance to percolate in my brain...still grinding the coffee, so to speak.

But this blog is done, for the day. The topic isn't, and who knows when or if it will be revisited for my few readers...funny side note, at the end of the "Sopranos" episode that we watched, last night, a Mafia killing occurs. Surprise, surprise, I know. Anyway, the guy comes up to a man and a woman in a car--which, by the way, was just starting to pull out of a parking spot--shoots the man and the woman which causes the now dead man to take his foot off of the brake and the car roles over the shooter's foot before banging into the car parked in front of it. We looked at each other and laughed, "Now that's karma," says Shawn.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

At long last

Well, some questions regarding Season 4 have been answered. Frankly, it's a load off of my mind. Phew. And tickets to Espana have been purchased. All is well in blogland.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sorry I haven't written...

I've been consumed with that mob show I talked about, last week. It's taking over my free time. We've gotten to the middle of the 4th season, and only been interrupted by a wedding (fantastic and lovely event at Mt. Rainier) and a paella dinner, last night. It's probably good, this little break. Gives us the opportunity to really take in what we've seen, thus far, and speculate about who will not make it to the 5th season. Will it be Ralphie? Or--and this is terrible to root for on so many moral and ethical grounds; but that's what mob shows do to you, cause you to root for the worst of the bad guys, and to even find justifications for doing so--will it be that annoying, untrustworthy fake sister of Tony's. Ugh! I can't stand her! When Janice first entered the story, we both wrote her off as a so-so actor and were so relieved to be rid of her, or so we naively thought. Then, when she came back to Newark, it was all either of us could do to not throw our chocolate candies at the television screen whenever her face came on. Now, however, both of us have expressed doubt as to our initial impressions of her talent, or lack thereof. Maybe, just maybe, she is actually so prodigiously talented that that is why we have such hostile feelings towards Janice, the character. If she weren't good at playing the resident manipulator, then we probably wouldn't give a flying fig newton about her screen time. Her presence would be the perfect opportunity to unwrap the foil from the chocolate, or take that sip of water, or sprinkle those red pepper flakes on the slice. One wouldn't even need to pause the DVD while she spoke, one could simply get up to refill the water glass. I don't know...the jury is definitely still out on her...I'll get back to y'all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Not that I'd want to be in that family

The last few months have been spent trying to catch up with the rest of the HBO watching world. Neither of us have cable, so any of those shows that were such huge successes and have either ended, or are ending this season, went unwatched by both of us. I did my fare share of marathon viewings of the girl one, and lately we've been watching the death one, only to be completely distracted by the mob one. So far, the mobsters have it. It must be that inexplicable fascination with the underworld of gangsters ala Al Capone. As if we really know so much about that world, other than what is gleaned from the sensationalized stories and photos that you see from time to time. Remember when he took us on an exclusive tour of Capone's hideout? I can't remember if it was on network television, or A & E. I do remember being totally titilated at the thought of seeing some kind of gruesome discoveries as Geraldo is the first to reveal this murderous icon's very own cave dwelling. It was a cave, wasn't it? And what was in it? Nothin'. Zilch. Well, mildew, I suppose. And some mucky muck on the floor. But not from blood and guts, just dirt and water mixed with age. This did not deter our investigative reporter from trying to make it as exciting as if he'd found the remains of Capone enemies mixed with some damp green backs rather than the mud. It was, ultimately, a non-story.

What is it about the Mafia that fascinates us? (It is US, or Hollywood wouldn't continue to make movies and television shows about it.) How many bad Mafia influenced made for t.v. movies have I watched? More than once? We did have cable when I was in high school, so I got to see lots of repeats of bad shows; like that one with Melissa Gilbert and Joe Penny (who, coincidently, was on a couple of episodes during season 2.) Lucky, lucky me. Like most people I know, I love "The Godfather" I & II and despise III. Today, to my surprise, I discovered that there was a IV--made for t.v.; I am out of the loop. Predictably, "Goodfellas" is another fave. But these people, these anti-heroes, are murderers and cheats and liars and thieves and I, we, root for them. We want them to succeed and pump that other guy fullalead. Ick.

Of course, it's all about rationalization. This Mafia guy's story has unfolded for us. We get to see the softer side of Michael Corleone. You know, where he's wining and dining Kay, or hugging his children, or worrying over his father after an attempt is made on the Don's life. And let us not forget his picturesque walks in Italy as he courts that nubile beauty. He's just a family guy, really. If "The Godfather" had been made into a television series, I think we'd even get to have more sympathy (that's a relative term, mind you.) for Michael. Like with Tony. His main concern is that of his family. That family happens to extend to the other men in his organization, which illustrates to the viewer just how loyal he is to those that deserve it, and even to some that don't. Now, how can you dislike that? Who else offers you $50,000 when one of the "uncles" acts out and tries to run you over because he's trying to make a point, and leaves you a possible paraplegic for the rest of your life? That Tony, he is one stand up guy. He's got his worries, just like you and me. So his job is a little questionable, at least he takes care of his own, yeah? And is trying to become a more in touch, sensitive, truer individual. Right?

Violence isn't a tactic that appeals to me in the problem solving arena. However, in the fantasy world of television, movies and books, it is most often justified in a way that we can live with in order to continue to care what happens. If it is mob related, then so much the better. Gosh. That's kinda sick. Well, onward to season 3.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I feel the need, the need for speed...

I got some new shoes a couple of days ago. hee hee hee. They make me think of Spiderman and are so light and comfortable. I am super fast in these shoes, I just know it. Vroom-Vroom shoes. I wore them out when we went to the lake to watch these guys practice their super fast flying moves, yesterday. See? Super fast shoes. Super fast jets. I think there's a connection somewhere...

Every year, they come to Seattle for Sea Fair, and every year I hear various thoughts on what that means. Well, what it means in a political sense. Especially since the start of the war in Iraq. When those jets fly into town you hear people bemoaning the showboat techniques of the military and grumble about what their presence really means. As well as hearing all about how great it is that they come, it's one of the best annual events that occurs in Seattle, etc., etc., etc. It's easy for me to forget that those navy blue planes with their yellow stripes are actually representative of the U.S Navy and Marine Corps. Is this wrong? Does it bother me just a little bit? Yeah, I have to admit that it does. But that noise. That speed. That force. I am in awe of a man made object that can go so fast and execute uniform, simultaneous, crazy topsy-turvy maneuvers. I get caught up in the excitement of it. It's fun to watch them. Heck, I love the sound more than anything. And the way that it vibrates off of everything around. You hear that broken sound barrier noise, and suddenly, regardless of whether those planes are in sight or not, all heads zip upward and search the skies for them. Doesn't matter if you disagree with what they stand for, ultimately--which, sad to say, is not the celebration of "Fun"--one cannot help but look.

Politics are on my mind, it seems. There's another blog out there, written by a woman who shares my same name. Can you believe it? Well, I'm sure there are others, too...but this woman's blog is all about politics. And she's savvy. Oh, yes. She knows what's goin' on in the world and has opinions. I can't remember what her blog is called, but I know that if you google "linnet", you'll see her come up, a lot. (Yes, I have googled myself. And who hasn't?) The point is that if you want to read about Linnet's views on the political state of our world, I'd suggest reading the other Linnet. THIS Linnet is just on a military kick, right now, because of the Blue Angels and the war and my little brother's upcoming birthday, which will be spent in Iraq. And the struggles of balancing what I know to be a travesty with the knowledge that my little brother is a part of it, because he signed up for it. Whether he likes it or not, he feels he has to toe the party line. (Or is that tow the party line? Both make sense, if you think about it...) Am I angry with my brother? No. He was ripe for recruitment, unsure of his life options. One of those young kids who signs up in a time of relative peace, hoping to get some GI Bill money and maybe get posted to Germany, so that he can boast of having been stationed "Overseas" for awhile. So, with those speedy jets flying around I am reminded of how worried I am and what supporting the pageantry of the schtick truly means. Is it possible to separate the two? Obviously, it's possible to convince oneself that they can be separated, but what does that really mean you're telling yourself? It would be the same as taking a stand against big tobacco and then buying stock in Phillip Morris because that company has other interests besides just cigarettes. For instance, Kraft Singles. And if you like Kraft Singles and don't like the culture of tobacco, then you probably have to tell yourself a similar story about why buying the fake cheese is alright and why enjoying the Blue Angels is also alright,too. I don't like fake cheese, but I do like those planes.

O, Life!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Reading is cool.

In the wee hours of the morning, I finished reading this book, and was left with a sense that I do not know nearly enough about anything. At all. I am embarrassed at my lack of knowledge concerning the history of this country as well as the current state of affairs. I don't mean that I don't know what is happening, vaguely, with politics and the war and lies and cheating and that Lance Armstrong won the Tour, again, and is retiring. But I am more apt to do a brief once over of the NY Times headlines while I stand in line to get my coffee than to actually, heaven forbid, read an article--except the arts section. The emails that come to my hotmail address, pretty much daily, go unread. Prior to the last election, sigh, I read every e-mail they sent and dutifully signed electronic petitions. Now, I check mark them for deletion without even opening them. Ugh. I just admitted that, out loud, so to speak--er, type, I mean. In her book, Sarah Vowell describes actually weeping as she joins in the singing of the National Anthem at the 1st Bush, Jr. Inauguration.

"Either you beamed through the ceremony with smiles of joy, or you wept through it all with tears of rage."

She is a true patriot, one who bothers to learn what this is all about, take action to change it and still recognizes and loves that this is the place where she can do it, despite the fact that it is so disastrously messed up right now. Read this book. Especially if you, like me, are often conflicted about how to articulate the love of a country that is acting like a big fat jerk and making life very, very painful for a lot of people in a lot of places. I don't want to walk around carrying my head in shame, and it's awfully difficult to hold it up, somedays--heck, most days.

My mom and I took a trip to Paris, this past spring. This was her first time out of the country-- unless you count that one day we went up to Vancouver and looked for a prom dress for my baby sister who wanted to have a dress that was different from everyone else's at Filer High School, but not too different. Just bought in a different country different. She, my mother, described to me comments made by various people in her home town that dealt, mainly, with curiosity of why you would want to visit a place occupied by those awful French people who didn't want to help kick Iraq's ass, or concerns that we would be pummled with baguettes the moment that we opened our very American mouths. And this is not just a product of small town-ism, either. I heard people in my big ole' little city express similar crazy ideas. I'm not afraid to travel. I love to travel. Especially outside of the borders of the U.S. of A. I see it as my duty to visit cities that might view all Americans as braggarts and loud mouths who complain about not getting enough, if any, ice in their sodas; or the waiters not stopping by their table every two minutes to ask "How is everything?". I want to be the ambassador of good will and When-in-Rome savoir faire. When I depart the bistro, having made my feeble attempts at conversing, or at the very least ordering in barely passable French, I want that waiter to say to himself, "Ahhh. Zat iz ze kind of americaine zat I like to see."
We had a great time, my mother and I.

I am now preparing to take another journey, in a couple of months. This time to Spain, to share a house for two weeks with several friends. (I know I sound like a jet setter right now, but these trips have come out of lots of toil, peanut butter sandwiches, a little credit card debt and making my own coffee almost every morning. Except when my sweet boyfriend says, "Let's go get coffee", which is code for "I'll buy you coffee and a donut, too, if you like." See? Sweet.) Once again, I look on this trip as an opportunity to spread the good word that many people residing in the United States are not complete ignoramuses. There are plenty of folks who really love the world. The possibilities of experiencing something completely new and out of their element. I'm really excited about this gift.

I'm not trying to fool myself into believing that by simply taking an airplane across the ocean and being respectful is the only way I can participate in helping to get the U. S. back it's good name. There are oh so many other avenues. And most of them take place on this side of the ocean. I was inspired by Ms. Vowell. I want to be more informed. I can choose to be. It's not even that hard, the internet makes reading local and national politics a breeze. From so many angles, too. One might even be able to glean the actual story by piecing together the various accounts and biases. Hmmm...what a thought...

That will be all for tonight, my children. I am now stepping out from behind my pulpit and turning on Letterman. He's all about current events, right?