Each day, hundreds of mourners gather together in West Virginia: first in hope, and now in remembrance. The life of the coal miners is a dangerous one, and so some may not find it surprising that such a tragedy could occur, but nonetheless, it should remind us all of the fragility of life.
It begs the question, “What is life worth?” It is a question that the Buddha encouraged his followers to ask.
“The disciple who devotes himself to the contemplation of death is always vigilant,” the Buddha said. And he is right. Looking at life from birth to death is always looking at the future as something always over the horizon and an infinite distance away. They are always able to understand the abstract concept of death but put him off like an unwanted bill collector that can be avoided indefinitely.
Those who face their death, not as an eventuality but a constant reality, understand how precious this time here and now is. There is a sense of immediacy to action. There is the constant echoing call of “carpe diem”: seize the day.
In our meditations for merits, chants to the bodhisattvas, or our prayers to our God, I hope that each of us can find our call to action to remove the shrouds of our lives and reorient ourselves to what is sincerely fulfilling and worthwhile.
How much of America’s life is spent each day working more, because we want more, so we can have more, to eventually come and spend our time at home blindly watching TV or surfing the Internet? Our priorities are to establish worth in what we chase after and acquire.
At the moment of death, what could those miners bring with them beyond the grave: money, iPhones, their new car? Now that they are gone, what will be remembered?
Regardless of faith, what is essential to remember is that the only lasting value are the ripples we have made in the waters of life. Our good deeds transform us and extend out to those about us. Knowing that life is always an uncertain thread that comes to its frayed end unexpectedly, we have no time to waste in living.
I send the warmest regards and compassion to all those who were effected greatly or even just a little by the death of the 29 miners of West Virginia.
Be well and happy.