It sounds like a list of lovely, exotic names, doesn’t it? With this week’s reminder about the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, you’re guessing there’s more to it. Katrina brings up images of disaster, and thankfully, now recovery. Karma and Leila are another thing entirely.
An idea from Indian philosophy, Karma is a way of thinking about the world in an orderly way. It’s comforting for us to believe in the notion that “what goes around comes around.” I am sure each of us has “Karma” stories in our lives.
What is less well known, though, is the follow-on notion, also from Indian philosophy, of Leila. While Karma is about explaining every consequence in life, Leila is just the opposite. Leila says that lots of things in the world do seem to work in an orderly fashion–until they don’t. Leila says that sometimes, “Stuff” happens. No reason, no sense, no logic.
And that’s where Katrina comes in. It’s not that the weather event labeled “Katrina” is important. It’s what we do with it once it’s blown by us. We drive ourselves crazy with things like, “If the race issue were different in New Orleans, then…;” “If the Army Corps of Engineers had…, then;” or “If the rich versus poor issue were different, then…” The list goes on and on. More meaningful though, is how we act in the world now that Katrina has come and gone.
This is where Leila steps in. “Stuff” happens. Rather than resist it, blame others for it, become a victim to it, Leila is a stand in the world that says, simply, let’s receive it for what it is. Let’s see what the world has to offer us now, what we can become now, as a result of this.
Leila doesn’t demand that 2+2=4. In fact, it says that sometimes it may not. Not everything in life adds up in an orderly, Karmic way. In my town, we formed a bond with one of the small communities in Louisiana that lasts to this day. It’s a relationship that didn’t exist five years ago. I’d say that’s a pretty important consequence that no one could have predicted from a devastating hurricane.
There is, of course, still much work to do. The anniversary updates are full of information about that. So rather than buying into urban legends of conspiracy, what people deserved, or what they should have done, let’s enjoy the lessons, the relationships and the opportunities that have grown from this.
Katrina, Karma and Leila are linked. Most change, like Katrina, is foisted upon us. Our job is to absorb the change, restore ourselves to a healthy existence, and get stronger so we can take what comes next. And usually, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, so there’s no use trying. There’s lots of use, though, in letting Leila guide us to finding the explanation that is far from what we thought it should be.