Thursday, April 18, 2013

Contemplating Bad (I think) Karma

Well, Gentle Readers, it's heartening to check my stats just now and see that this tiny blog gets read, even though I haven't been around much.  I've been awfully busy dealing with that statin AE (I started writing about it back here), and not back to myself yet.  Not driving because the right foot and calf are still numb.  And I don't know if I ever will be.  Even if I get back to that norm, I've lost three+ weeks of my life, days that can never be recovered, and so has Tom, taking care of me full-time.

I wish I thought someone could learn from my experience, but does anyone ever learn the easy way?  Do you?  I remember vividly learning the wrong thing at least once.

Plenty of time to think propped in bed, icing the ankles alternately.  How to handle the "friends" who didn't come through.  Keep?  Discard?  Express my feelings to?  Put them on Most Unwanted posters in my study?  Vow every morning to remember what they did or didn't do?

I don't know yet.  I do know I've revised my concepts of several people and of our relationships.  It's given me lots of practice in restraining my impulses, especially speech and online writing.  And I've had difficult spots when my raft kept bumping against rocks of vindictiveness, for even sweet old ladies are human.

I feel wronged by a lot of people, most of all Big Pharm, which campaigned vigorously to get doctors and citizens alike to believe statins (think Lipitor) work, and to minimize the incidence of horrific side effects.

Buddhism has lots of guidance on these issues, such as "Hatred is never overcome by hatred, but by love alone." That doesn't mean I have put away the idea of litigation.  Somebody has to use the courts, or the legal system wouldn't work at all, as opposed to just being a travesty, or at least a muddle. (However, I'm glad to live in a country that has one.)

How is other people's carelessness overcome?  Every mother and manager deals with this all the time.  It's one thing when it's your kids or employees, but what if it's friends and family?  This whole thing has demanded I work overtime on these questions. 

I am also putting energy into having compassion for myself in this sorry mess of a life as the designated scapegoat in an abusive alcoholic family.  This is crappy karma (I think), and you know what they say about karma.
All these years later, and most of my family dead, I keep tripping over alcoholics and addicts.  They take a lot of forms, you know.  There are many who buy the marketers' picture of the good life and are worn out partying and travelling and consuming arts and entertainments and more stuff and stuff to organize it in and expensive food and wine.  Naturally, Wun resents that other people are out doing all this while Wun sits home in a bathrobe too sick and tottery to shower, but in fact, it calls for compassion.

Perhaps fortunately for the world, this illness coincided with an opportunity to begin working with a Zen Master, which feels somewhat like the hand of God throwing out a lifeline. Every Zen Master I've met or corresponded with embodies kindness, and that's the goal.  I keep remembering that every goddamn rotten painful thing that descends on you is a chance to learn, to correct your course. I couldn't tell you how helpful it is to be on a Way.  But if you're reading this, I bet you know.


  1. You say that you've "lost three+ weeks of my life," but I read instead that you are gaining your life, amazingly enough, through all your pain, and I am inspired and also grateful to see you have been "thrown a lifeline." Thank you.

    1. Good to hear from you. It was actually in the course of revising that post that I increasingly realized what a good retreat this has been.
      Thank you.

  2. Melanie from Austin Zen CenterApril 19, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    "This whole thing has demanded I work overtime on these questions.":
    1. "I wish I thought someone could learn from my experience, but does anyone ever learn the easy way? Do you?"
    2. "How to handle the 'friends' who didn't come through."
    3. "How is other people's carelessness overcome?"
    4. "It's one thing when it's your kids or employees, but what if it's friends and family?"
    I appreciate your efforts to look at these basic questions about connections with other people (especially those who are close to you) when you're in real need of help. I've been looking at getting help, asking for help, receiving help lately. Kindness seems like a good part of all the answers to your questions. Can you kindly sue? Maybe. It could be a kindness for the future lives that may be spared the pain you've suffered. I think you can kindly say, "I really needed you and was hurt and troubled by your lack of time or attention for me." And then see what happens. I did a workshop with Norman Fischer about the Tibetan practice of Lojong recently, and I have his book, "Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong." Apparently there are 59 slogans. The first one is "Resolve to Begin." Norman said he realized after a close Rabbi friend died suddenly (a man who always cared about others in a very active way) that he, Norman, wasn't very compassionate. He started working on being more compassionate. So what I remember from the workshop is to make an effort to check on people and worry about them, etc.-- and do things like help out when they're sick. I also finished a class recently on Aging, Illness and Death at the Austin Zen Center recently. We read a book titled, "Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality" by Judith Lief. There was a paragraph that really struck me, and I was reminded of it when you mentioned your lost 3 weeks: "At any given point, one part of our life is already gone, and the other part has not yet happened. In fact, a great deal of our life is gone for good-- everything up to this very point in time. If we are thirty, for example, that means our first twenty-nine years are dead and gone already. They will not be any less dead and gone in the future, at the time of our physical death, than they are already. As for the rest of our life, it has not yet happened, and it may never happen. The boundaries of our life are not so clear-cut. The distinction between life and death are not black-and-white." Wow! The past is always lost and gone anyway. Why is it so hard to leave it behind?

    1. Hi Melanie -
      There's so much in your comment that I've been thinking about.

      Maybe I don't understand how self-involved many people are who are not serious about a path, or who are serious, but still at a stage where they're intent on personal attainment. Compassion seems to be somewhat unusual. Maybe that's America.

      My mother was astonished late in life by the gratitude of a young woman she took dinner to, when she heard the woman was laid up with a badly broken leg. I mean, it was her own spaghetti and meatballs and her own homemade cherry pie, both terrific. The woman crocheted her an afghan in thanks. I understand that boundless gratitude better now that I've been sick and had so little attention from friends. The most generous person by far turned out to be a friend who has serious chronic illness and pain. She knew how to do it, too, how to check in advance what we could eat and when she could deliver it. She is a meditator.

      It is hard to leave the past behind, maybe impossible to entirely transcend your karma. That would help explain the oh-so-many sexual transgressions by gifted Buddhist Teachers. That, and the fact that they're men.
      Written with a smile and a bow,

  3. You might interested in this article:

    1. Thank you. That article makes some good points.
      Something else I've learned is that you don't know you need to change until you've been confronted with something you just can't handle. And so often illness and caregiving stretch people too thin, or breaks them. You know, then you might get mended with gold. Not necessarily, but you can.