“Life is a gamble at terrible odds, if it were a bet, you would not take it.” Tom Stoppard’s words from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” came to mind on Friday morning. Skiing down a red run towards a local village for a leisurely lunch, we paused for a moment at a corner of a field. A fresh carved wooden memorial was tucked beneath the trees that bordered the field: a crucifix beneath an arched roof standing at the end of a small patch of ground enclosed by immaculate wooden rails.
A year ago a 23 year old local man had come down the run at speed, hit ice and collided with a tree. It was a sombre moment, one where there are no words to make sense of the experience. What meaning or purpose could there be? What great plan could possibly be fulfilled by the random, accidental death of a young man in the prime of his life?
The moment passed and we skied on, a little more cautious and a little less buoyant in spirits.
There is a randomness and an arbitrariness about life that is never explained away by Christian writers, no matter how clever they may be. No-one has ever explained why my children being born in Ireland have every imaginable opportunity, while children of parents in sub-Saharan Africa struggle even to stay alive. No-one has explained why one person is cut down with cancer at the prime of their life while another lives until a very ripe old age. No-one has explained why silly, chance accidents happen, ending lives in a moment.
There is no option of not taking the bet, the gamble is the only one on offer. There is ultimately a mystery about a world in which a young man goes out from his home for the simple pleasure of skiing down to a local village and ends lying dead.