Getting a Kick Out of Life

I’ve never been fond of horses.

They’re beautiful animals, but riding on them is an uncomfortable experience.

They can also be dangerous.

My karate teacher was knocked unconscious when he was violently kicked by his horse.

When he eventually regained consciousness, that experience led him to reflect on the precarious nature of life.

It’s what inspired him to adopt karate-do (空手道) as a way of life instead of simply a hobby.

He wanted a practice that would give meaning to his life.

Death puts life into perspective.

The first time many of us encounter death is in dramatic moments like the one experienced by my sensei.

Witnessing my grandfather (爷爷/爺爺) die was the first time that death became real to me. To this day, I still remember the distress I felt as a young teen when I saw him cough up blood and go through excruciating pain in the final days of his life.

However, we don’t need to wait for dramatic experiences to teach us about death and remind us to live a life of meaning before it’s too late.

Death is all around us.

COVID-19 merely heightened our awareness of it.

Before the pandemic, we didn’t need to travel far to see death.

Roadkill is a common sight when driving on rural roads in America. I’ve seen many dead deer, possums and squirrels lying on the side of the road.

At any moment on any day, we could wind up like those animals.

As I’ve begun reflecting on this reality more over the past year, I’ve found that it’s helped me to think more meaningfully about my life.

Death compels us to reevaluate our priorities and find what gives us purpose in our lives.

Vincent Lim is a writer, editor and educator with many years of experience working in higher education, technology and the public sector. He first encountered the teachings of Buddhism and experienced the benefits of meditation in his training to become a black belt in Matsubayashi-Ryū, a style of Okinawan karate. Today, his Buddhist practice is inspired by the teachings of the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism.

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