Everything catches up to you. Everything. Even things that happened to you as a child. Every fall, scratch, cut, and broken bone… will manifest itself in some way when you are older, or just plain old. Everything you ingest, every bad habit, every stupid teenage prank, every ridiculous middle age decision, every grumpy old man tirade, will catch up to you eventually. Every ache and pain you have today may have its origins in some silly little thing you did as a kid.
That time you went sledding down a steep, snow-covered street lined with parked cars. You lost control and twisted your back when you slid into the bumper and under the chassis of one of them. That time you fell off the trampoline and broke your ankle. That time you went for a joy ride with an inebriated chum. A tree jumped out in front of the car and you went home with a broken nose, a concussion, and a host of lies. That time just before a protest march when your best friend cajoled you to take some LSD. You got arrested and thrown in jail while tripping your brains out. That time you insulted a man on the subway, only to discover, years later, he would be your boss.
Everything catches up to you eventually. This is Karma. This is what I call Minima Karma, karma that has minimal causes and effects… karma that occurs over a lifetime, which is said to be merely a blink in the eye of the Buddha. You may say that cancers, lost limbs, blindness, etc., are not minimal events, but major ones. Yet in the larger scope of history, what happens in one’s lifetime is nothing compared to the causes and effects that happen over hundreds or thousands of years.
The kind of karma most people wish for and which provides a nice warm rush, is Instant Karma… an immediate observable effect to an action. A gun nut provided instant gratification when he walked defiantly into a restaurant armed with an automatic rifle and accidentally shot himself in the leg. Or the terrorist who prematurely blows himself up before reaching his target. Oh, the instant gratification to those of us who abhor the proliferation of guns and deadly weapons. We are always on the lookout for examples of Instant Karma because when justice is meted out immediately, we feel vindicated and satisfied… in the moment. But Instant Karma is simply one domino knocking over another.
The Magna Carta could very well be called a Magna Karma. The Magna Carta of 1215 was a document imposed by feudal barons on the King of England to limit his powers of law and protect their rights. The feudal barons cared little for their subjects, yet over the years, it would affect the common man. The Magna Carta led to the rule of constitutional law, both in England and beyond. It took eight hundred years, but this document influenced not only constitutional law, but common law as well; the ideals of democracy, representative government, limitation of powers through checks and balances, and equality and freedom under the law. If this sounds similar to our Bill of Rights, it’s because our Constitution and our way of government are direct, though historically protracted, effects of the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta is Magna Karma because it had such a profound impact on the world. It took centuries for us to evolve from feudalism to democracy, yet it happened because of the very nature of karma’s domino effect. Though the dominoes may fall at a frustratingly slow pace, they do eventually fall. Take the women’s suffrage movement, civil rights movement, and gay rights movement. They took many generations to achieve their goals. But once the first actions were taken, the glacier worked its magic and one by one, the resistance to change dissipated or disappeared.
Our involvement in the Middle East from the Bush era to the most recent airstrikes against ISIL may very well become an example of Magna Karma. We don’t yet know what the lasting effects of our actions will be for karma marches at its own pace. The generations to follow us will have to live with the consequences, good or bad. I hope for their sake, the consequences are good, but given the history of the region, it may take hundreds of years before the monarchies are destroyed, the countries of the Middle East join in the Family of Nations, and Islam will no longer tolerate extremism. With luck, all religions will disappear entirely.
Then there is Maxima Karma, which has the greatest and most severe consequences. Maxima Karma is the result of actions taken so long ago we forget their origins. A melting glacier pushing moraines in front of it rips through the land so slowly we cannot see the resulting phenomenon called The Grand Canyon. Maxima Karma, like all the others, has its consequences, many of which we will not feel or see because most of us will be dead. Yet the consequences will be of the most extraordinary kind to someone or millions of some ones in the future. How far in the future, one can only guess. But it doesn’t matter. Once the domino falls, the rest is inevitable. My guess is Maxima Karma is going to get us sooner than we think!
This week started with marches around the globe asking for immediate action regarding climate change. More than 310,000 people marched in New York City alone. The UN will discuss the matter later this week. Clinton’s Global Initiative has been addressing this karmic issue for years. The Rockefeller and ancillary foundations have announced they will divest themselves of all investments they have in fossil fuels. This is encouraging to say the least. More encouraging would be if President Obama would give a resounding “No” to the XL pipeline. He would joint the well-educated, wise, and visionary people who truly understand Maxima Karma. Some call it the butterfly effect, snowball effect, or chain reaction. Whatever terms you use, simply using them does not stop the falling dominoes.
Can we stop them? Can we push them back in the opposite direction? Can we reverse the ill effects that started with the Industrial Revolution? Those 310,000 people want immediate action to reverse course, even though there are some scientists who say we are already beyond the tipping point. For future generations, life may be like some dystopian sci-fi movie. I guess this would be called Pessima Karma. But pessimism gets us nowhere. Give me Optima Karma, even though it may be a fool’s errand. Hope is all we have left. Hope and revolution.
We have only two choices when it comes to Maxima Karma. Either embrace the gloom or rise up in optimistic hope. Imagine a world in which all the greedy corporations and their influence on politics is dismantled. Imagine a world where war is an anachronism. Imagine a world with clean air and water; where everyone is fed, sheltered, and free from fear. Imagine that this will take many generations, though we really can’t afford to take that long. Imagine citizen activism, the consequences of which might not be known for many years. Imagine that though you don’t know the ultimate effect of your actions, you take them anyway now because you are one who understands that Maxima Karma will ultimately prove what you do (or not do) today will either be suffered or enjoyed by the people of the tomorrows to come.
The Unapologetic Hippie