Karma on the Installment Plan—in Nepal…

I’ll change my usual format here today, which typically consists of choosing what I consider to be a pithy quote or two—of my own, of course—and then expound on it or them, in the hope of explaining myself and/or the world, so that it might help someone in their own personal quest for beauty, truth, and goodness. Because sometimes life itself offers succinct little stories that say more than I can say from the depths of my imagination, no matter how hard I try. And I would also like to cross-pollinate my Buddha and travel blogs, too, so this seems like a good opportunity. I’ll just re-blog this there.

In this case the meat of the subject is the idea that the worst things that happen often bring rich blessings, if one can only find the lesson in the suffering and turn despair into delight with a minimum of delay. This goes to the heart of karma, and gives it new value, so not just a justification of an often unjust status quo which consolidates the wicked in power and reduces social mobility to a minimum. Karma, after all, means ‘acts,’ not ‘fate,’ such that the merit gained from good acts, will come back to bless the actor many times over with benefits from unspecified locations and sources.

So, when my main laptop computer suddenly wouldn’t connect to WiFi—ANY WiFi—and wouldn’t even show the available connections, I knew that I had a problem. I immediately noted the coincidence that I had been using a VPN for added security here in Nepal, but I’ve used VPN’s many times in China, where they are a necessity, so I discounted that as a source of the problem. After all, the computer still worked fine; it just didn’t show available WiFi networks. Stranger things have happened in the history of computing, and it could be just a minor fix, for a competent technician, if not me. All my efforts at troubleshooting failed with no great insight pro or con.

And I still had my old trusty eight-year-old Acer backup notebook which has been to Hell and back and still keeps ticking, having outlasted half a dozen larger and newer units, even if it’s been lead pitcher barely half that time, if even that. And, if the backup unit crashes, then the larger unit together with my smartphone is still almost a complete full-service combo, except possibly the ability to email manuscripts, which I think is doable, but I’ve never done it. So, no sweat, right? That’s why I carry a backup unit, to cover just these circumstances.

(Cue drum roll)

Then my smartphone developed similar symptoms, the inability to connect to WiFi, though it did show all available options, which the laptop didn’t. Still, though, it happened coincident with my use of VPN, so…

This totally freaked me out, of course, only two months into an eight-month trip, for which the primary objective is to write and re-write a manuscript which I consider to be my life’s chief goal at this late date, so no SNAFU’s wanted or appreciated. But now, within the space of only a week or two my triple-vaxxed Wifi connection is down to one, and that one is an eight-year-old with psychological issues. Did I mention that this one once switched personalities with a larger unit, such that the opening screens were reversed on the two units? Weird. The other one died an ignominious death. This one survived, albeit with a Thai dealer’s version of Windows 10, that I once had to trouble-shoot and re-install myself (something I rarely if ever do) as a last-ditch effort at survival. That was five years ago.

I’m not a computer technician, but my understanding is that a VPN overrides the local network to emulate a foreign location, and then when you disconnect, it reverts to its original status. That’s where my telephone glitched, I hypothesized. The two networks at my hotel are both acting flakey on my telephone, though fine on the old laptop. Other networks look normal on the phone, also, but I don’t know their passwords. If I switch to another hotel, the phone might just work again on another network. So I go to another hotel, ostensibly to look for a room, but really to test the Wifi on my phone. Bingo. I’m back in business. Not only that, but I really like the room, on the 4th floor, overlooking the common balcony in the ‘cultural village’ that just so happens to be the birthplace of the Buddha.

Back story: the main problem with Nepal is that the power goes out all the time, sometimes only for minutes, and usually no more than an hour, depending on local factors. But it was so bad in Kathmandu five years ago that I swore I’d never come back. Fast-forward to the present and I’m stuck with an eight-year-old laptop that hasn’t had a functioning battery for most of its life. So, if it loses power, for even a moment, then I have to re-boot, which takes time, AND… Too many of those in the course of a day and the future will not be bright for an otherwise vintage trooper, from an era in which machines were expected to last. Unless… unless I can get the large unit to work again, too, even though it shows so available networks, unless… unless I can trouble-shoot it with better results than last time…

Double-bingo! God has intervened for me his humble servant, even though I haven’t believed in him in years, not really, my brand of Buddhism not the superstitious kind, and I not the kind to beg for favors, anyway. Perhaps more importantly I’m warm for the first time in several weeks, since even though this is certainly the warmest part of Nepal, and at 10c/50f nights and 20c/68f daytimes, it’s almost (almost!) perfect. Still, without any sunshine, the bleak days in the fog bank that is January can be a bit miserable for us homies without heaters. But my south-facing room on the 4th floor gets every minute of available sunshine if there is such a thing on any given day, this after a week of hovering around my tea kettle to stay warm in my previous digs. So, this is the best I can do for now.

The moral of the story, of course, as already mentioned, is that sometimes the worst curses can yield the greatest blessings, call it a ‘brilliant mistake’ if you want, but the result is the same: no need to curse your fate, AND… no need to submit to it, either. Things usually work out if you remain creative and avoid deterministic premature surrenders. That’s no help. Because, if there is such a thing as Karma, then, not only is it not just fate, but it’s more than an action-reaction sequence of events, also. That’s a business transaction, or Newton’s Third Law. If Karma is anything, then it’s more than that, no need to embrace either extreme. It means that, on balance, the good you do in this life will reverberate to your benefit, sooner or later, somehow or other. Be patient. Be calm. Be kind. Be helpful.

p.s. The meta-story here is that Omicron hit about a week into this trip, so some fast thinking was in order, and outcomes were uncertain. Three months later, I’m good…