Posted by: Shanna Germain | 01/26/2010

Pg. 196: The Karma of Air


I just bought a plane ticket. For the first time in forever. Tickets are fairly cheap right now, considering (bankrupt airlines, terrorist threats) while still being fairly expensive, also considering (no job, no home, *ahem* no job). Still, I’m excited to get on one and go somewhere (which should tell you that it’s been a long, long time since I was on a plane, if I’m actually missing it). I don’t mind riding on planes the way that some people do. I loved it the first and second time, and then it became commonplace, a bit of annoyance (no room! leg cramps! no pillows left! the guy next to me talks too much! I can’t see the movie screen!) — how quickly we become accustomed to things that are so brilliant and impossible (we’re flying for fuck’s sake!) that we should always be enamored, aghast, and at least slightly in awe in them.

But we’re not  — well, some of us are afraid of them, and I think that’s probably a smart move too, in many ways. Still, the majority remains: Ho-hum, it’s a plane. It better get me there on time.

I’m not a big person of prayer, but I will say that I believe in karma (as it’s used today, meaning that it’s sort of like a bank machine: You get out of it what you put into it. If I put in lots of good karma, then I’ll get back good karma. Of course, it’s probably more like a slot machine than a bank machine, which is why we’re so often standing around, crossing our fingers, whispering, “C’mon, c’mon, gimme Good Karma, Good Karma! Go Good Karma!” and doing the same for those who’ve wronged us, sure that they will eventually get what they deserve).

Which (sort of) brings me back to karma and airplanes. So I don’t pray — I didn’t even pray during the lightning storm on the way back from Mexico. I just looked out the window as the streaks crashed through the sky toward the plane and thought, “I’ve done my best, I’ve done a lot of what I wanted to do, I’ve been a decent person, if this is the end, so be it.” Of course, I was really really glad after, when we landed, to discover it wasn’t the end, and I did another little karma dance of wonder.

Which (sort of) brings me back — again — to karma and airplanes. I don’t pray, but I do a kind of karma thought. It goes like this: I don’t care if the plane is late, I don’t care if I have to sit on the tarmac forever, I don’t care if they have to fix something, I don’t care if I have to stay overnight in some town I hate, I don’t care if I don’t get fed… Just get me there eventually, alive. Breathing. Unbroken. This isn’t really karma, in the traditional sense, but it feels like it is. If I am calm about the things that are small and insignificant, then I will get good karma when things really matter.

Now that I think of it, that’s probably not just how I fly, but how I live my whole life. I won’t sweat the small stuff, and I will have faith that the big stuff will come together, as it so often does. So if I don’t get a drink on the plane, or if they run out of blankets, I’ll be a little grumpy but I won’t get too up in arms about it. I figure I’d better save my “up in arms” for that moment when we’re hovering just above the ground, our wings folded, our wheels not yet tethered to the earth.

Far and fast, s.


“All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.” ~Buddha



  1. I sat about fifty feet from the Dali Lama last year at a lecture in Ann Arbor. He talked about enlightenment which I might describe at the Buddist karma. There was this aura – feeling – presence – that was very intimate and personal. I felt connected. He wasn’t selling, he was opening doors in your mind, educating…. It is hard to describe but since then I’ve done some reading about enlightenment and find it fascinating. I’m not shaving my head and I wish I had more time to spend learning but I definitely felt like I received something that day. I’m not sure that I gave back but maybe I did and don’t realize it.

  2. Ow, wow, Dean. That sounds amazing. I love the ways that people can inspire us and gift us, especially someone like that.

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