Monday, January 12, 2015
Manhattan transfer and used karmas at O'Hare airport
I am changing planes at Chicago's O'Hare airport and stop in at a bar restaurant near my gate for refreshments. A well-dressed older woman comes in and asks for a manhattan. That's a classy bourbon cocktail you don't often hear ordered at 10:00 a.m, except maybe by Don Draper in "Mad Men".
Before the bartender has mixed the drink, she switches her order and asks for bourbon with ginger ale. I can't resist. I say to this stranger, "You raised the tone of this establishment and then you dropped it down again."
She laughs, then peers at me and screeches, "We know each other!" I don't recognize her until she introduces herself. She came to some of my workshops twenty years ago. We last saw each other on a group adventure in the high Andes in 1999. How come she's in the bar now? Three of her flights were cancelled, she had to stay overnight at an airport hotel.
"Do you have a story for me?" I ask.
"I've been going deeper into Buddhism," she tells me. "I just came from a Buddhist retreat in Wisconsin."
"Okay. Always good to ground and balance after something like that. Cheers!" We clink glasses. I am an Australian. I'll have a beer anytime I feel like it when traveling, especially when I have been up since 3:00 a.m. But I'll leave the morning manhattan to someone coming off a Buddhist retreat.
She is earnest about what she has been studying. She wants to know my opinion about karma.
I tell her I think there are consequences or everything we do, and that it's important to think about how we are collecting karma of every kind in our present lives, as well as carrying karma from other lives. "I like the Buddhist idea that we can be released from all of that in the moment of enlightenment," I say. "Tathagata time!" We toast again.
More serious now, I reflect on the apparent contradiction between the idea of linear karma and the probability that in the multidimensional universe everything is going on Now - and on limitless parallel event tracks. Einstein suggested that time and space, as we commonly think about them, are just a human convenience, not a fundamental reality. It may be convenient to step out of them, or across them.
If I think that the Scottish druid who lived and died 1,500 years ago and the Royal Air Force pilot who was killed in World War II are part of my story, and that I have inherited karma from what they did or did not do, maybe I can reach back to them, launching from the moment of Now. Maybe my thoughts and actions now help or hinder in their own time - which is also now - and may be more helpful as I rise to greater consciousness of how all this works.
It is possible to operate with these two seemingly contradictory visions of reality: linear karma in Chronos time, and the simultaneity of experience in the multiverse in a spacious Now. It is like the observation in physics that something can be both a particle and a wave, and you will see it one way or the other according to how you observe it.
- from my travel journal for Friday, January 9, 2015.