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07/18/08 Karma

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“All upward movement is by spiral staircase”

That quotation hung on the wall of my college apartment during my senior year. I believe it is from Isaac Newton although I have had difficulty confirming that one way or the other. It came to mind because of all the talk about karma these days in relation to the financial meltdown and the perceived increase in natural disasters.

We have come to blend what we used to call spiritual terms and ideas into our everyday lives. It’s well known that Presidents have consulted astrologers and you don’t have to look too far to find any number of business leaders who seek the counsel of psychics and numerologists. We may still try to separate church and state, but an increased awareness of consciousness and its relationship with science and quantum physics is now a part of the popular culture. The degree to which an understanding that there is something larger than our own egos at work in the universe gives us a sense of humility that is useful. The problem with some of the ideas about karma is that they have the potential to be misconstrued into the latest escapist explanation of why we aren’t responsible for the fix that we are in.

In a financial context a different word for karma is the “business cycle”. When we hear that term we understand it as something that is immutable – it just happens. We can look back through history and see that it has happened in the past so we assume that it will continue to happen. Like a Mandela it just goes around and around. The problem with this explanation is that it is similar to the superficial understanding of karma. It almost seems as though we are all victims of forces beyond our comprehension and out of our control.

Consider this analogy told to me by someone much wiser than I:

You throw a ball at a wall. It hits the wall and bounces back to you. That’s karma, its cause and effect. What you do causes something to happen and it comes back to you. But what if, once you threw the ball, instead of waiting for it to come back to you, you ran forward and caught it before it hit the pavement. By your actions you would change the course of the ball. That’s how you change karma. You behave differently than you have in the past given a similar set of circumstances.

There are similarities to what we have gone through in the past in terms of economic turmoil but there are also differences. We now have a truly global system and it is computerized to move with a velocity that defies rational thought. The prognostications of those who should know how and when the chaos will end become vaguer with each passing day. This uncertainty creates anxiety and then fear. So although the process is familiar, its dimensions are much greater than we have experience before. That’s the upward movement that Newton is talking about. While it seems ominous from a financial systems perspective, the fact is that we are all connected in a manner that we have not experienced before.

What is different is the awareness increasing numbers of people have of the opportunity to behave differently. It is the opportunity to shift the definition of value and to create a commercial system based on real need rather than artificial profit (and surely the current situation demonstrates how truly artificial that profit has become). This isn’t an esoteric, Pollyanna exercise; it is fundamental and practical. The obstacles may still seem overwhelming but there is a good deal of evidence that this shift is occurring.

We have seen risk in the past as the potential to loose what we have. We need to see risk as the actions we want to embrace to take to get what we need.
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It has been brought to our attention that Margaret is being portrayed as a psychic on $1.99 sites. These sites are doing so without Margaret's permission. Margaret has not claimed she is a psychic. - MW