Monday, August 15, 2011


This morning I just watched the news about the Indiana State Fair's stage collapse. While I'm extremely glad that only a handful of people were killed by the destruction of the stage, any loss of life and limb caused by this is regrettable. From first glance, it looks like a lot of things combined to make it an avoidable accident that no-one knew about. Hopefully no one was neglectful, because a death caused by negligence often incites rage or murderous intent (lynchings do still happen, after all - just not often in the US).

It strikes me as one of those examples of how life is completely transient. This gift we're given, the chance at life on this turn of the great cosmic wheel has no guarantees of anything other than an eventual death. When we see others suffer or die we're reminded of that. It can be quite the psychological burden to bear, knowing that you survive as others do not.

The solace I take from having seen this tragedy on the news is that others immediately rushed to help. People reportedly used the clothing from their own bodies to provide tourniquets and bandages to those who were injured, and still others comforted the dying. It was one of those moments which make me proud to be who I am, where I am. The combined effort of bystanders and professional rescuers alike must have saved or eased many who were caught in that accident. Certainly, people must have prayed both for life, for release and relief from pain and suffering. I too pray for the safety and continued life of those who were hurt, but I also pray for the safe release of the spirits of those who were hurt.

Shinto has the tradition of placating the ara-tama, the wild spirit of those who have passed on before us. Much like offering placation to the kami who are capable of wildness and anger (it is not their stated goal, mind you), one should see to it that those who passed unexpectedly in fear and pain are not disturbed. The confusion of a sudden, senseless death is a hindrance to those spirits; they continue to exist, but may have problems adjusting to their new existence. That is why I hope and pray for the safe passage of those who lost their lives, and for the relief of suffering for those who live.

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