How Karma Is Like Pool
Most Westerners misunderstood the concept of karma, writes Charlie Martin. It's not fate, it's "cause and effect, and causes and effects left over from previous history." Take the U.S. election this year...
February 8, 2008 - 12:30 am
It’s a funny thing, karma.
Most people in the West don’t really understand the word, even people who read a lot of “new age” and spiritual stuff. They get the idea that “karma” means fate, predestination, some kind of mysterious outside force of destiny that determined who is happy or unhappy, who is lucky or unlucky, who lives and who dies.
If you really want to understand karma, play pool.
One player hits the cue ball — click! — and the tightly gathered triangle breaks; the three ball of all the fifteen balls, finds its way to the corner pocket and drops. No one planned it, but as a consequence of the way the ball was struck, the way the other balls were racked, irregularities in the green felt, even tiny chips and scratches left by previous games, all combine to determine that the three ball drops. This time. That’s karma, the whole thing: cause and effect, and causes and effects left over from previous history.
Watching the political news, this analogy, this image, keeps coming to mind. The first election I really took part in was 1976: Reagan versus Ford, Kennedy versus Carter in the primaries; then Ford versus Carter in the election itself. Some Reagan supporters sat out the election; Ford lost in two states by a few thousand votes, but the Electoral College turned, and Carter was President. (Click!)
Four years later, after Iran, and Panama, and stagflation, and hostages, Reagan wins the next election. Then Lebanon, and Kuwait, and Iraq, “read my lips” and all, many conservatives go to Perot; Clinton is President. Eight years after that, a few hundred votes turn one way in Florida, and George W Bush revenges his father, but at last he’s too “liberal”, not a true enough “conservative”, and conservatives sit out the 2006 election. (Click!) Congress changes hands.
Now we’re in another election season. Moveon.org endorses Obama; the Democratic Party “super-delegates” lean to Hillary Clinton; conservatives like Ann Coulter say they’d rather see a real Democrat win than a fake Republican like McCain; and non-traditional candidates like Bloomberg and Nader hover, waiting, in the wings.
Every one is another cue shot, another chip, another ball on the table, and eventually the election will come, and one ball or another will drop into the cup. People will vote for one candidate or another, or sit out the election completely, and eventually one candidate will be elected President.
Some time after November 4th (please, God, very soon after!) we’ll know who that is.
If your favorite candidate isn’t elected, if you are unhappy with the performance of the next President, you can at least feel comforted by one thing.
It was karma.
Charlie Martin is a Colorado computer scientist and nearly-successful screenwriter who contributes to the Flares Into Darkness political blog as ‘Seneca the Younger,’ and blogs under his own name at the aggressively non-political Explorations blog.