As I was driving to yoga class at five-thirty this morning, I passed a man on a bicycle. From a distance, he seemed to be weaving down the middle of the road. As I got closer, I saw that he wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he was smoking a pipe. I don’t know why anyone would smoke a pipe while they were riding a bicycle at 5:30 in the morning, but I thought it was a strange coincidence that I chanced to pass him on the road.
I also attended a funeral for a friend today. He was an artist, a musician, a great teacher, a family guy, and only one year older than me. He had been driving in center city last Sunday (which is relatively empty on that day) and someone who had been stopped by the police for an expired license left the scene in a hurry, ran a red light and smashed into the side of his truck, killing both himself and our friend. It’s been a sad week thinking about what happened to Mark and the loss his family feels.
I don’t know why I feel that there is a connection between the man on the bike and my friend, other than the pure randomness of our lives. Free will, self determination, I believe in all that. But there is always the element of randomness — accidents, chance meetings, the bouncing around of atoms in the vastness of molecular space — that we can’t control no matter how much we wish we could.
If I had left the house five minutes earlier or later, I wouldn’t have been so amused by the sight of the man smoking a pipe on his bicycle. But the same could be said for our friend’s accident. Tonight there was a party to celebrate his life and art, downtown at Firestation #2. A camera couldn’t have captured the somber and yet joyful mood of the evening — a renunion of many old friends, a sharing of art and music. There is a huge old bell behind the firestation and as trains passed by in the dark night, each of us took turns pulling on the rope to toll the bell in rememberance of Mark. As his brother said today at the service, to remember and honor him, we should all, “Take whatever we have and what little time we have and create.”