Just days ago a friend from the past died overnight, in his early 30s. It was a shock. Whatever the cause and whatever the reason, it is another reminder that life is fleeting, and precious, and sacred, and… etc.

There is no other answer, no deeper meaning, short of finding a higher power or purpose. And truly, not everyone can convince themselves of those greater designs, even at moments like this, when we most need them.

I remember sitting at a table with the departed in a high-school ceramics class, comparing notes on new punk albums that had come out, making a mess of sloppy wet clay, occasionally ditching the class completely to go smoke cigarettes. We laughed a lot, it seems now.

As the years roll by, more and more people from those years are falling by the wayside. When a even-closer friend of mine died four years ago, I remember the deceased shaking his head, saying simply, “Damn.” He could not, and would not, have known he wouldn’t be far down the line.

As I do the same, shaking my head, all I or anyone can say is “there but for the grace of God go I.” And mean it – or not mean it, as the case may be. There is a philosophy for every vagary of thought and volition under the sun, Horatio. Choose Heidegger, or Nietzsche, or Kant, and you can’t end up in a different place.

But perhaps that higher meaning is simply those pasts we share – those stolen cigarettes and ditched classes and dirty jokes – and how they live on in hearts and some kind of echoes of history. Because after all, we are all waiting our turn on the cosmic conveyor belt.

Or as Joyce put it, “we’re all becoming shades.”

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