Reflecting On Karma

I’ve often said that Karma means not only the ripples from the stones we throw, but our tendency to throw stones in the first place.

Right now I find I’m still in a rut trying to reconcile myself with mortality by trying to reify my eventual death into a romantic plot device for a story arc.  But Jack’s memories have already taught me something devastating but fundamental: death is often random and senseless.

The people who can bring it all to a final chapter and live their lives like a well-written book are the lucky few.  The rest don’t get to tie up loose ends. They fall into canals and drown. They get blown up on battlefields. They die suddenly of strokes.

But I should know better than to idolize those savvy travelers who go gently into that good night with their bags neatly packed. Trying to add meaning and impact to death is just another trap we fall into.  That’s why suicides are so theatrical. That’s why people volunteer for wars. That’s why people risk it all for some grand goal.  People are so confounded by their own mortality that they stake out chances to die sooner in exchange for more meaning.  But they still die senselessly in the end.

Others dream of a world where nobody has to die. I envy their idealism. But I can’t see that working. Not with the way of this world.  Immortality would be the next aspirational carrot dangled in front of the working class, but it would only be available to the aristocracy.  Imagine a world where most people die before 40, ruled by 1000 year old princes. This isn’t the kind of world I want to live in.  And the stains, regrets, guilt, and baggage of such a long life would be unbearable. Realisitcally, I wouldn’t want to live a day over 300.

So we can’t stop death without serious consequences. We can’t reify it into something meaningful when it’s inherently absurd.  We would do better to take our time and reflect on that absurdity.  But even when we know this, the omnipresence of death holds a sword to our throats and demands an answer from us.  “I’m coming for you,” death says.  “How do you want to do this?”

I miss the brief period when I was doing well divorcing myself from the idea that my death would have any kind of meaning.  I miss being able to zero in on that headspace that acknowledges Dukkha but doesn’t give it any value.

I miss that enlightened place. The immediacy of danger since last year’s election threw me off balance so bad.  It’s easy to imagine yourself detached from Samsara in a stable country where a long, uneventful life is easy; it’s quite another to maintain a steadfast commitment to that detachment when your personal beliefs can get you killed.

In short, I feel I was tested, and I failed the test.  I’m ill prepared to deal with real uncertainty without falling into those same comfortable myths of heroism that never served me.  Jack’s Karma is still stuck on me.

This is one of those times when “Well, what now?” transcends a rhetorical expression of helplessness and becomes a Koan for meditation.  “What now?” indeed.  I need to find some kind of inner balance, but it’s like trying to spin plates while people are throwing rocks at you: Not impossible, just puckeringly difficult.

I guess this means I’ll be posting here a bit more while I sort this out.  This was always the place I posted these abstracts.  Time to meditate again on the senselessness of death reified and detach myself from the need for death to mean something.  Meaning is such a matter-centric way of thinking anyhow; something only means something else if it’s bound to causality the way we understand it.  It’s completely useless to speak of meaning when describing a bardo state like the one I remember from 1915.

More grappling to come.  Bear with me.


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