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A little old-fashioned Karma

“If it weren’t for bad luck,  I’d have no luck at all.... gloom, despair, and agony on me.” So sang the Hee Haw chorus throughout my childhood home. I wouldn’t describe my life in quite such black terms, but sometimes I think that Calamity should be my given name. Disaster seems to frequently dog my footsteps.

Dennis, blessed with the optimistic soul of a 14-year old boy, calls me a pessimist, but I think it’s my friend Greg who comes a little closer to the mark. “This is your karma,” he laughs. Greg thinks that because I write about every horrible thing that happens to me, God is making sure I have plenty of material.

I believe in Karma because it’s one of the few principals that are universal- it’s found in every major religion, including science. Causation is a major part of Buddhism, which looks at time in terms of cycles. A person who remains unenlightened is caught in the Wheel of Becoming, and will face the results of the 12 links of causation, which include things like ignorance, craving and grasping. Ignorance, craving and grasping are right up my alley.

In Christianity, Jesus taught his followers that, “as you believe, so you shall receive,” and went on to promise that even a small amount of faith, the size of a “mustard seed,” was sufficient to “move mountains.”

In science, this translates to the third law of physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The world of quantum physics takes this a step further, proving by experiment that the fact of observation by the experimenter has a measurable effect on the experiment. (If you were ever frustrated by trying to decide if a tree falling in a forest with no one there to hear it makes a sound, check out quantum physics. Shroedinger’s cat will drive you nuts.)

What it all boils down to is knowing that when something happens to me, it’s generally my own damn fault. That’s not always easy to accept- I was raised right here in America after all, the land that’s tried to make a religion out of blaming somebody else for the consequences of what we do.

My friend Doris, who recognizes that I sometimes need these reminders, sent me an email the other day that read, in part, “Today I can complain because the weather is rainy, or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free. I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do. I can grumble about my health, or I can rejoice that I’m alive.” I don’t know about you, but I generally have a better day when I’m rejoicing that I’m alive.

In the last couple of months my septic system exploded (all over my bathroom), the motor blew up on the truck, the kitchen faucet fell apart and the stray cat had kittens. I haven’t had enough money, enough sleep or enough time in way too many weeks for comfort. The weeds in my yard grew to five feet high, and pincher bugs were infesting the head of the weed-eater when I took it apart to put in new cable. Greg is right– God loves me, and she gives me lots of stories to tell. Luckily, she gives me good ones.

When the handle broke off the kitchen faucet, my brother Joe decided to fix it for me. I don’t have a normal, ordinary faucet, however, because very little in my life is normal and ordinary. We couldn’t figure out how to get the faucet off, and I would have taken a hacksaw to it but every tool I once owned disappeared a long time ago.

Given that every dish in my house was dirty, I loaded up a plastic storage bucket with soapy water, set it on the floor, and washed dishes. Took me an hour and my back was killing me by the time I finished. That faucet had to be fixed, and I didn’t know how to do it.

So I went down to Hay’s gas station to ask Bugsy who I should call. I won’t name the gentleman who was sitting inside when I told my sorry tale, because the names of the innocent should always be protected. But Sir Galahad was at my door ten minutes later, and two minutes after that was under my kitchen sink.

It took him about 20 minutes to figure out how to get the faucet off, and another 10 to install the new one. The only pay he would accept was a thank you, which I gratefully gave.

My brother said the altruism featured in the movie Pay It Forward is unrealistic, but he doesn’t live in Clark Fork. I do. God may well give me disasters, but he also led me to live in a place where there’s lots of folks ready to take me by the hand, and show me the way out.

“Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped,” Doris’ email read. “And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.”

There’s a little old-fashioned Karma going on in Clark Fork, and everywhere else as well. Luckily, we get to choose how we respond to it, and maybe change the world in the process. And that has to be worth a disaster or two.

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Landon Otis

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karma, repairs

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