Two nights ago, I learned that a friend had just accidentally killed another man. I was gasping on the phone, as I was trying to make sense of the situation – to no avail. There is no making sense of such a horrific thing. What caused the death was stupid, irresponsible, totally preventable, and of course – as such things are – completely irreversible. Two drunken men on a high-speed joy ride, killed a cyclist. I will spare you the gory details I do know, and let you guess the many details I still have to deduce. In the end it doesn’t matter. Suffice to say, my friend is a quivering mess, overwhelmed by regret, guilt, horror, and self-loathing, and all the other complex emotions that come to the surface when you realize the finality of what you’ve done.
I didn’t sleep much the night after the call. I was angry. He should have known better. My first instinct was that I wanted to beat some sense into him – the painful enormity of his stupidity was just too unbearable! But as I drove to work this morning, I saw two things – within half a mile of each other – that changed my perspective somewhat. (I’m saying “somewhat”, because I’m still angry as I ponder the unnecessary loss of life, and the intense waves of pain that reverberate out from this event.) First, I saw a woman, flip a burning cigarette butt out of he car window. It landed just a foot from the parched grass at the edge of the road, still smoking. I wanted to scream at her, and tell her what a lazy, %&^@# idiot she was. Forest fires are not limited to forests, as we well know from recent news. I was furious! Less than two minutes later, as I waited by a stop sign, I saw another woman driving by, her eyes fixed on her cell phone. She wasn’t paying attention to the road at all, she was texting. The point is that we all take stupid chances at one point or other. For the most part, we end up okay – until we’re not. And, sometimes when we’re not, the consequences we find ourselves in the middle of, are dire. So, for this week’s thought provoking exercise, I invite everyone and anyone who has not at some point tempted Fate, done something unbelievably stupid – and gotten away with it – to speak up.
I’m still angry, and feeling far from being flippantly forgiving about the whole thing. But, as I look at my own life, I have done stupid shit, and made dumb choices more times than I care to admit, and – so far – gotten away scot free. By the good graces of sheer, dumb luck, mind you. Seeing it that way, makes it easier to not be judgmental. Yes, what was done was unbelievably irresponsible and stupid. But, there is no need to tell him that – believe me, he knows. I still had the urge to smack him, but when I saw him later, I said nothing, and just hugged him as he sobbed on my shoulder. I’m not a religious person, and I am a firm believer that heaven and hell are both right here, side by side, on this earth. Even if I had had access to the torture tools of the Spanish Inquisition, I could not possibly have inflicted more pain in this man, than he is already experiencing. “I can’t breathe”, he agonized. Nothing anyone can do or say will undo what happened. Both my friend and the driver of the car will have to live out the rest of their lives knowing that they caused another man’s death, and deal with the consequences thereof – all the while re-experiencing the horrors of the crash every time they close their eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like. I also can not imagine what having a loved one cruelly taken away by someone else’s idiotic actions, would be like. There is enough horrors here to go around, for sure. Let’s look at our own risk-taking behaviors, and not cast judgement of others until we ourselves are in the clear. (Which will likely coincide with a cold day in hell, as the saying goes…)