Category Archives: karma

My Dead Mother-in-Law Got Me Hooked on Craigslist

If American business relied on Americans buying things that they truly needed, American business would be out of business.

When my mother-in-law died, she left a house full of fabric. It was in the attic, it was in the basement, it was in each bedroom. My unscientific guess (by weighing a few containers) was that she left about 6,000 pounds of sewing fabric. She didn’t sew that much or create crafts. She bought the pretty, bright colored fabric when it went on sale only because it was on sale and the colored patterns caught her eye.

I’m sure fabric stores rely on people like my mother-in-law to keep them afloat. If people only bought what they needed, that would mean 5,995 pounds less fabric for this one woman alone.

Just a small sample of the fabric

Just a small sample of the fabric

And she was not alone. Two weeks after she died, the wife of my manager’s neighbor died. She left a houseful of fabric . . . and 15 sewing machines.

An ad on Craigslist helped us get rid of our fabric. One woman came by after most of it had been snatched up for free by many people. She complained that the fabric smelled musty. Well, it was stored in plastic containers for, in some cases, decades. What did she want for free? Right after coming to our place, she was heading off to another house filled with fabric left by another deceased elderly lady.

Before she left, she still grabbed a good amount of our musty fabric and told us she had buckets and buckets full at home. Note: big fabric giveaway going on at her house after her death. What goes around, comes around.

Virtually every house hunter reality show on television has that woman that complains about the small closets in a house. She says, “That closet will only fit my clothes, my husband is on his own.” Or, “That closet will only fit my shoes.” The older houses have minuscule storage space and that same women is shocked to think about how few things people must have owned back then. Huge shoe collection? Not a thing in the past.

Maybe buying stuff gives people a high. Maybe they keep so much stuff because it might be useful someday. Unfortunately, by the time they need that item, it is lost in the other old junk they saved or new stuff they bought.

I blame ubiquitous advertisements. Can anyone get through the day without an ad overload? Everything we look at or listen to sends us an ad for some product or service. One reason I don’t own an e-reader is because of the ads that pop up on them. Sure you can pay more and not get ads, but I’m sure that someday the ads will still come, outright or in a subliminal manner. My computer is probably sending subliminal ads to me at this moment. Paranoia is a land I’m well acquainted with.

Government, along with business, encourages us to keep mindlessly buying. Buying stuff is good for the economy (and not saving is bad for the economy – go figure).

Both rich and poor overbuy. The less wealthy buy cheaper stuff (i.e., 6,000 pounds of fabric) and the wealthy can buy enough expensive clothes to fill a 1,000 square foot home or more. If we lived a dozen lifetimes, we couldn’t wear out so many clothes or sew with so much fabric.

I’m ready to cross my cultural references and throw my shoe at the TV next time someone complains about a “small” 2,000 square foot house with kitchen countertops that are “not granite.”  Then I’ll be in the market for a new TV. I’m part of the problem.

Of Birds and Saints

An elderly man at a grocery store asked a young employee walking by if he would help him lift a 40 pound bag of bird seed into his cart. The young man did not even stop and said he doesn’t work in that department. I don’t think the elderly gentleman heard the young man’s response, since he kept looking at him as he continued walking away. I think he expected him to turn around any second and help him out.

I stood right behind the man and asked him if I could help him but he didn’t hear me. Finally when he did turn around and hear me, he said that I shouldn’t lift that much.

I showed him the 40 pound bag I already hoisted onto my cart and told him I will get one for him. He said OK as long as he can help me since it was so heavy. I already pay good money at a gym to lift weights so why not lift bird seed? He said his wife enjoys feeding the birds. A happy wife and well-fed birds, two things I’m all in favor of.

But I cannot harshly judge the young. Even St. Augustine did some unsaintlike things in his youth and became a saint after all. I have hope that the young man will stop and perform a small act of kindness to his fellow man the next time. I’m getting old myself.

Karma: The Road to Heaven Is Paved With Good Intentions

I just finished a book by Ayya Khema, “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere.” It’s sort of a step-by-step introduction to the Buddhist path.  Although don’t think this will simplify Buddhism, because it doesn’t; moving through each step is far more complicated and difficult than a step-by-step method might imply.

In this book, Ayya uses the word kamma instead of the more well-known word karma.  Apparently one language Buddha used often was Pali; a language that used the word kamma. We might mete out some blame to the television show “My Name Is Earl” for this among other karma-using popular cultural phenomena.

In one aspect, kamma means to take full responsiblity for what happens to you.  Don’t blame other people or circumstances.  Each person is the master of his or her own destiny and has the ability to change.  We can’t change the world or other people, only ourselves. We cannot eliminate problems, but eliminate our reactions to them.  The end result to moving along this Buddhist path would bring us to view ourselves as a non-self.

The word kamma literally means action, but Buddha believed that it encompasses more than just action.  The intention behind the action is very important.  Not just the doing, but what we think about and speak of matters.  And whether we do something intentionally or unintentionally makes a difference.

Even when two people do the same thing, it may not bring the same result.  Two people may create the same bad kamma action, but one may have a full list of good kamma and this one bad choice will not make a big difference.  The other with very little good kamma, creates the same bad kamma and it may poison his or her life.  Since no one knows truly how much good kamma we each possess, it is better to assume that we have the lesser amount, lest we poison our lives with wrongful thinking.

All we have is the present moment to make a difference.  To dwell on yesterday or tomorrow will not change anything.  Our present day intentions and actions can bring about a good kamma.

So in this case, is it the road to heaven that is paved with good intentions instead of the road to hell?  A permanent heaven or hell doesn’t exist in Buddhism.  To a Buddhist, the only heaven or hell that may exist would be temporary.  The cycle of rebirth interrupts these temporary states until a person becomes fully enlightened and fades away into a sort of nothingness.  The goal is being nobody and going nowhere.

I am drawn to the Buddhist spiritual path.  Yet I have taken virtually no steps toward enlightenment.  If it was easy, we’d all be there.

I may have to give up feeling the hurt I feel from my fellow Muslims. That gift of chocolate won’t make up for the blind anger I feel toward a colleague.  My intentions are not on the right path.  The tug of both East and West won’t let go.