“Karma is choice.”

From Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus:

p. 190
In casual Western conversation, karma is used interchangeably with destiny, kismet, luck, and fate. Bill had chosen the name while still in the grip of what felt to us all like a star-crossed tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. During the Elizabethan era, most Europeans believed each person’s fate was predetermined, hardwired by the positions of the planets and the stars. Some people still do. But the idea of karma has a deeper, more promising, meaning than that of fate. Karma can help us develop wisdom and compassion. In Hinduism, karma is a path to reaching the state of Brahman, the highest god, the Universal Self, the World Soul. Our karma is something over which, unlike fate, we do have control. “Volition is karma,” the Buddha is reported to have said. Karma is not fate, but, in fact, its opposite: Karma is choice.

I was hooked by page six, when Montgomery reminds readers of the octopus in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Synchronicity, serendipity, synthesis.

My last entry for August, The Soul of an Octopus was the ninety-fourth book I finished reading so far this year and the twenty-third title in my quest to read at least thirty non-fiction titles in 2018. Last month, I also (finally!) finished The Aeneid, and during the drive down to visit my youngest yesterday, I listened to the remaining lectures in Elizabeth Vandiver’s The Aeneid of Virgil.

Other reading highlights from the past month:

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (Jessica Bruder; 2017. Non-fiction.)
As I mentioned here, Janesville, Squeezed, and Nomadland (related entry here) formed a sobering trilogy.

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery (Andrew Shaffer; 2018. Fiction.)
What silly fun this was! My older daughter and I listened to this while walking and running errands.

Things We Lost in the Fire (Mariana Enriquez; 2017. Fiction.)
Wow. Just… wow. From the Amazon blurb: “Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.”

When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead; 2009. Fiction.)
This beautiful Newbery Award winner reminded why I love to read.

The Kristin Lavransdatter readalong began today, and I have nearly finished this week’s objective: Part 1 of The Wreath (seven chapters). It was easy to become absorbed in this old-fashioned but well-told story.

I will likely finish The Children, a play by Lucy Kirkwood, this holiday weekend and The Third Hotel, a new novel by Laura van den Berg, a little later this week. Another new release, Vox (Christina Dalcher), is also on my nightstand. Derivative, flawed, and strictly plot-driven, it may be done sooner than the atmospheric and disturbing Hotel, which I find I must set aside periodically — not unlike my experience with the brilliant Things We Lost in the Fire. Perhaps I need time to think about the images and ideas the writers have presented; or maybe, more accurately, I need to look away for a bit.

More soon.

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