Electric Light Out

“LONDON (Reuters) – A giant bale of hay has killed a founding member of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) band after it tumbled down a hill and crashed into his van.  Cellist Mike Edwards, 62, died after the 600 kg (1,323 lb) bale rolled down a steep field in Devon, southern England, smashed through a hedge and careered on to the road.”

The above news story is from September 7th, and is just too interesting to let pass without some sort of discussion.  I mean, really!  What are the chances of being killed by a rogue hay bale while driving through scenic southern England?

The band – Electric Light Orchestra – was unlikely in and of itself.  In the guitar-heavy world of rock music, they merged guitars and synthesizers with violins, violas, cellos, and basses.  Inspired by some of the orchestrations of later Beatles’ music, they did pretty well for themselves with hits like, “Evil Woman,” “Can’t Get it Out of My Head,” “Strange Magic,” and many others. 

Mike Edwards himself played cello for ELO for only two years.  In later life he changed his name to Pramada, which, according to the sometimes reliable Wikipedia web site means, “divine contentment.” 

I remember reading years ago about a guy who had won the California lottery twice.  A statistician was quoted as saying the odds of winning twice were about the same as being hit by a piece of space debris.  I think being hit by a wayward hay bale is more likely than being hit by space debris, but not by much.

It makes you think, though.  I didn’t know Pramada/Mike, but the orchestral string players I’ve known weren’t crazy, risk-taking types.  I’ll bet he flossed daily, minded his cholesterol, locked his doors at night, and drove his car at a safe speed – ironic, if you figure that hay bale would have missed him if he had been going a few miles per hour faster.

Just as a baseball manager will usually walk a batter if there are runners on second and third base and less than two outs, we all play the odds every day.  We take small risks without hesitation, and big ones if we think the payoff will be worth the potentially bad outcomes.

We can improve our chances of living longer if we take fewer risks with our health and our behavior, but if there’s a big, round hay bale out there with your name on it, it’s going to find you. 

As with many things in life, the trick is to find the balance between taking good care of yourself and enjoying a full and rich life.  Some people are so careful that they stay at home all the time, and don’t risk the hay bale cause of death.  Those people are called agoraphobics, and their fear of the outside world might lead them to live a long time, but at what cost?

There seem to be more questions than definitive answers spawned by this man’s unusual death.  In case you missed it, I wanted to shine some (electric) light on it.  Now that we’ve done that, keep your eyes peeled for hay bales.

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