Accidental Death

The weirdest things happen to us by accident all the time. I remember reading about air crashes and how they happen. I watched a lot of videos downloaded from You Tube about the causes of these air crashes and the discoveries of the investigators seeking to find out how they happened.  This interest blossomed during the year a friend of mine died in an air crash that happened near Kathmandu.  I had visited the place where the crash took place earlier the same year.  It is a popular pilgrimage spot on top of a 5,000 foot high mountain.   I was haunted by the thought that I had been on the same mountain where my friend and his entire family perished.

I think we are all fascinated by death and the mystery of what happens after it. Most people don’t think about it – they are too focused on their life at the present moment. This is a healthy ‘obsession’. If this ‘obsession’ exists then its counterpart must also exist – a focus on death. Some people even worship it. One fact remains – it seems that all who live today will one day face it. How would one like to die? Again, most people don’t think about it. Does it hurt to die? Is their pain? I remember my first shocking experience of death was watching so-called driver training videos when I was a student in high school. We had to watch films of people suffering from car crashes and view pictures of dead bodies in the morgue. It was gruesome and meant to impress young students with being careful while driving. For me, that technique didn’t work. In fact, I must have been one of the weirdest students because I only drove faster and more recklessly as a young man. I suppose I was challenging ‘death’ to take me. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid of death. I was already an accident prone boy – scars and marks cover my body to this day from wounds caused by careless accidents. I became mature and stopped driving recklessly. I must have unconsciously decided I didn’t want to die in a car crash even though both my father and grandfather met death in that fashion. I moved on to bicycles and learned to have less challenging accidents with injuries that weren’t life-threatening. I lost my ‘obsession’ with death by accident by realizing that death was part of the world we live in. I also came to understand that there are people in this world who are not willing to give up their ‘death obsession’. I wrote about them in this article in 2007. I consciously curse them as the ‘true evil’ still alive in the world we live in. I can only wish their own deaths by accident happen sooner than later.

I wanted to make this blog story about the accidental death of a student of mine at Siddhartha Public Academy here in Kathmandu where I teach computer science and sports. It was not the first death of a student of mine by accident. A student I had known some 20 years ago met his death by an accidental fall from the roof of his one floor high house. This latest death, happening in August of last year, was another accidental fall. The boy fell from the roof of his five floor high house. He was alone at the time – in fact, both boys were alone at the time of their accidents. I had tried to teach my students in 2015 after the earthquake that year how to be ‘safety conscious’ and gave them rules to follow to prevent accidents. One thing I taught them at the time was to have a ‘play buddy’ and never play alone. Perhaps, both boys were like my younger self – not ready to maturely contemplate ‘death accidents’ and how to avoid them.

I understand this as almost a Zen-like discipline. One’s conscious attention should always be in the present and connected to one’s immediate physical environment. Almost all accidents I have experienced came about due to a loss of this conscious attention. I was either lost in thought, a reflection on a memory or a projection of desire into the future. This is the weirdest way to stay alive in the world we live in. Life and its joy requires conscious attention and the desire to experience it. Lose yourself in illusion and you might as well already be dead. I remember that I was watching a movie – Conjuring 2 – in the week before my student fell to his death. The movie plot relates a so-called true story about demonic possession that occurs in the U.K. The movie’s hero, a psychic investigator, almost falls to his death from the window of a room in a house where he is in struggle with the demonic presence encountered there. Then, a week later, my student fell to his death. This kind of meaningful coincidence is called synchronicity. There was no logical connection between these two similar events – one viewed in a movie and one in the real world we live in. However, they can direct an individual’s conscious attention to ‘being in the present moment’ and not forgetting about the work it takes to stay alive. In light of the article I wrote ten years ago, it is important not to let those lost in their ‘death obsession’ or other illusion distract us from getting on with our own life experiences and stories. I hope you, too, can find the time to express some of your life stories – call them Zen tales – and help keep the world awake in the present moment.


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