Those Tiny “Insignificant” Acts

Yesterday I was talking a little about endings, so it is timely to also mention beginnings. And it is beginnings which fascinate me more. From a single act a whole event flow can propagate out into space-time. These points of causal origination give rise to dependent arising. These acts, acorns if you like, can become mighty oaks. A single act fertilized by the rich nutrients of drama can grow in proportion and quickly so. We are seeing this in the world of geo-politics where a spy poisoning has become a major international incident. That rush to score a few points, media points, has had and continues to have a major dependent arising, a whole event flow around the globe. There was the option of getting the facts first and then acting, or dramatization. The latter path was chosen and how far this goes remains to be seen.

Our choices have impacts.

Seemingly tiny insignificant acts can ripple out and impact the lives of many people. To give a personal example, a while back a few stem cells in my colon started to freak out. This, starting with only one single cell, grew into a malignant tumour. I went to the doctor and before long that little blighter of a cell had the NHS swing into action and some nice man with a sharp knife slicing open my belly. The tumour went off to a lab and someone looked at the shape of the cells, counted them and said T3. From a tiny single cell, a cancer grows. This is the not so nice version of an oak. Oaks are “nice”, cancer is not so nice.

Whether we acknowledge it or not any single act might become a “cancer” or an “oak”.

Trying to contain an insignificant act can also act as a nutrient. If one tries to “hush up” something, contain it, it gets more concentrated. Then it can achieve a kind of critical mass which allows a chain reaction to explode outwards. Secrecy is of course a form of drama and as a direct consequence of the spy-drama the whole Porton Down thing is in the spotlight. {As an aside I once interviewed for a job there and indeed was offered one, which I declined. I chose to do a post doc. in Manchester instead}.

The thing is that once the point of causal origination has been initiated, it can be very difficult to predict what arises, that arising can be chaotic and not in any way tractable to control. It can be like a wild-fire and all it needs is some wind, some breeze. Try as we might there are some things we cannot control we simply have to let them run their course. If we put the drama-amplifier on them, it spreads more widely.

So tiny insignificant acts can have far-reaching effects. We may think we can get away with “it” and it can come back to bite us in the ass. A small act of kindness can turn a whole life around. A hug for someone just when they need it most, can make all the difference. Maybe the hugged person comes back and says, “thanks”. They go onto to have a happy productive life instead of sinking into depression and suicide.

It is difficult to know which acts are significant and which not. The acts of the cancer variety can have a mild foreboding associated, the acts of the oak kind are much less obvious.

Having cued this up:

Has any tiny insignificant act of mine ever turned out to have a much wider significance?

What flavour did this act have?

Dependent Arising and Karma

Perhaps the most debateable aspect of karma pertains to who or what is the cause and who or what is the effect. Yah and of course we all like to lay the blame at somebody else’s door. We may try to do this even when we have an inkling that is our own actions and thinking that has been causal. We may protest outwardly yet kind of know inwardly. If you think about it refusing to accept responsibility is generative of more karma. It is saying to the universe; “prove it to me”. And the universe, if karma exists, may well respond to our request. Now this isn’t a game of bluff that I personally would want to engage in, but it takes all sorts.

A single action, a few words, can initiate very wide-ranging effects that propagate forward in time. We might call such a nexus, a point of origination, a causal genesis for an arising event flow. All the subsequent events depend upon that arising. They are of course interdependent. The complexity is substantial, but without the genesis event none of it would have happened.

I am aware of events still unfolding now that had their causal origination many years ago.

Once things have been set in motion the only hope of interacting in a meaningful way is to catch them early on. This is because an event flow, once it has gathered sufficient momentum, is unstoppable. The consequences, bifurcate and unfold, they may continue to ripple out for a very long time indeed. There is a short period of time for remedial action, which if avoided or unused, will never manifest again. Whilst we are arguing the toss, that time window passes.

Although I can see this kind of event flow, I suspect that many can’t or are unwilling to, least of all if they have responsibility within the chain of dependent arising, a responsibility that they are unwilling and unready to accept.

Karma allows for a certain naïve ignorance and karmic impact is reduced. Karma however does not permit deliberate and wilful ignorance, because that is not lack of understanding it is pretending not to know of the potential consequences. If one does something dodgy, one knows and thinks, “what the fuck, let’s see if I can get away with this.” This kind of event can often prove to be a genesis for a whole new chain of dependent arising. It kicks off, it generates. It can get out of hand very quickly and its impact on many lives can be very wide and profound. These “important” originations accrue large karmic debts.

Earlier on I asked, “do you have karma to work off?”

So here is a related question:

Has any action or words of mine kicked off an entire chain of events?

If so, how quickly did that get out of hand?

Wider Implications

This theme has been with me on and off over the last few hours. Ever since I was a child I have been able to think a little more outside the box than most, a fact which has caused me some grief over the years. I can often see wider implications invisible to others. I sense a wider connectivity if you like. If one points these implications out, it can cause conflict, people don’t like it. At least this is my experience.

Generally, people are more concerned about the local things in their life and what the implications are therein. Nowadays there is a more global outlook, but home concerns still predominate. There have been some fantastic awareness raising TV programmes like Blue Planet. Still money and local economics are important. People have mortgages and careers. Looking at the finances of a situation can provide a kind of clarity. Since I quit all those years ago, I haven’t really paid any taxes because I generally have not earned above the threshold, after expenses. If I had still been employed it would have cost my employer something like £1million to employ me over that time and I would have paid maybe £200k or so into the exchequer. I saved my employer money which they could use elsewhere but this means that the exchequer lost out. In that time, I have not added to the scientific literature nor applied for any patents. I certainly haven’t raised any VC funding. I have cost the health service perhaps £20-30k in cancer treatments. I am in a sense a drain on the economy. This is one example of a wider implication and one tractable to realistic estimates.

When one is in a silo, one tends not to see outside the silo. We haven the frog in the well situation, I wrote about earlier.

Now some wider implications belong to the less measurable, the what might be and the what might have been. What might be is the realm of possibilities and what might have been is those possibilities lost. Over speculation in either direction is not generally a great thing, some retrospective thinking and future scoping can be helpful. It can advise the present. Scoping can vary from narrow to wide and encompassing. I suspect some imagine themselves more visionary than they are. A classic example is Brexit, where a vast amount of bollocks has been opined. The only safe prediction would have been that it would be messy, drawn out and very boring. We still have years of this agony to endure. Wider implication is another way of saying causal ordering of a branching kind. The level of domino effect is impossible to predict, but it is safe to say that there will generally be at least some branching of causal ordering. The more people are involved in something the bigger the ripple. Somethings are more significant than others and that significance may take time to manifest in full. These ripples emanate out from a point source or a causal origination. Many misjudge significance and potential significance.

I have explored some science ideas this year and my assessment has been that I can’t do anything more with them. They have some potential significance which cannot now manifest other than in the negative or lack of sense. Given the effort world wide in this area, it probably won’t matter. There are plenty of clever people out there. So, for me it is just one of those things which I looked into and which has fizzled out, no great shakes. I invested about £2-3K and that was that. At first pass there are no wider implications and there certainly is nothing which can be measured or quantified. The thing is that wider implications often can’t be quantified, this is because they are wide. And here is the problem, if you do see wider implications they can be invisible to others because they don’t stick out above the noise. Unless you have a satellite view of the bigger picture they are difficult to discern.

Joining the dots does not come naturally to most. What one can do is give hints and pointers and let others join the dots, because if one is explicit it is not believed. People generally prefer to argue first and think later. The capacity to negate is better developed than any openness of mind.

I am of course hinting, in this post, at wider implications. And those implications pertain to a wider karma.

What is karma?

Karma is impossible to define, because the very act of definition is limiting. Karma has scope and encompasses much, it goes from the mundane and interpersonal to the cosmic and universal. In the discussions herein, I shall largely stick to human karma and that is quite enough to be going on with. Karma is not the karma of, “hey man that was come bad karma, dude!”

Karma is neutral.

Karma is a way of saying the workings of life, the causes and effects thereof and in this context its expression upon the physical plane or life on earth. This notion of cause and effect underpins scientific endeavour and is the crux of Newtonian mechanics, the human mind likes a reductionist approach because this aids local comprehension. One can generalise away from the local to the global with a fair transferability. These mundane causes and effects are learned early on especially in regard of practical application. Quickly most children understand that a collision between a car and a human body can cause injury or prove fatal. The cause of injury is the rate of change of momentum when these bodies collide. This is the underlying explanation, not necessary to understand the effects of such a collision.

There are many other examples, some less tangible than others. Going against the will of a parent can have effects such as the naughty step or a smack. In this context cause and effect, karma, is used to teach some boundaries. In the local reality this makes sense, but there are wider implications. The disciplined child may resent this and hold a grudge throughout life, or the child may in retrospect see the need, especially when they have children of their own. As you can see, even something as simple as this has wider implication. Karma, or the workings of life, is broad. If one gets obsessed by all the details, one fails to see the general trends, and thereby misses the lessons to be learned. So, in looking at karma it is safer to look at trends and not minutiae. We could then say an integral or integrated approach is more fruitful. And although I will use examples to illustrate it is the wider view we are aiming at.

Understanding karma is understanding the workings of life.

If you like karma is the way that the universe shows us how each thing we do impacts upon our fellow beings, in so doing it offers us the chance and the choice, to modify our behaviours and attitude. It is only through direct experience that we learn properly. Human mind likes a demonstration if not an exact proof and when we have sufficient demonstrations we might then adjust. Some measure of scepticism is inevitable, and this means lessons are repeated until we take note. In some cases, the lesson has to become pretty harsh before it sinks in. Every human being learns at least something during their life, how much and how quickly we learn, is up to us.

The concept of karma is associated with schools of thought which deem transmigration or reincarnation real. I will take reincarnation as fact in this which means that karma is not single lifetime specific but is an ongoing theme heading forward in time. If you like analogies, one life might be kindergarten, the next infant school, then high school, then university. As we progress through lives we are required to learn more about the workings of life, karma. We carry with us some knowledge from previous lives which is largely at a subconscious level.

If the workings of life are cause and effect, then we have a dependent arising. In this one cause produces a causal effect which in turn can become a cause or causes(s) moving forward. One cause depends upon a prior effect, it arises in a dependent manner. Depending on whether or not that effect had manifested, the new cause arises or does not. When circumstances are ripe something relatively new or original may be possible, a new cause or type of cause has its origin. It is originated. We thus have dependent origination, which goes on to be causal of something, some life-theme, which is newer or novel.

Dependent origination and dependent arising are a part of karma or in other words, the workings of life.

I have used the word work here to imply some kind of material change which takes energy to do, it is easier to see a material change such as pushing a stone up a hill, but it also applies to emotional or attitudinal change inter alia. It can even refer to what might be termed spiritual or Soular change.

What most people refer to as karma is actually effect, and not karma as a whole, though in talking about the effect, the consequences, there is some implied causal relationship. The effect is somehow deserved. Human mind has at least partially linked the two, but the focus is effect oriented. Effects deemed unpleasant can be viewed as “bad luck” so as to negate any responsibility. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a major part of understanding karma. One needs to learn what one causes in the local and wider world in order to appreciate one’s role within it. From this one can decide to act in a life enhancing manner or not. Until one has a better understand of the workings of life those decisions are ill-informed and biased. In this respect it could be said that;

Karma opens the eyes and enhances the awareness.

Having said the above I am suggesting that karma is no bad thing. Surely it is better to evolve than to stagnate?