There's a very sad post over at The Last Of The Few here. The writer's friend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and his post tries to come to terms with the guilt he feels about introducing the guy to biking in the first place. He doesn't succeed.
I really feel for the guy. There are things in my life that I carry a weight of guilt over, things that I cannot change and which I regret. Logically, I can tell myself I am not to blame (and all my friends will tell me the same), but that doesn't cut any ice. When you feel guilt, it won't go away. However many people tell you something isn't your fault, you nod and agree, but inside you tell yourself that it's all very well for them, but inside you know you are guilty.
But how responsible are we for the things that other people do? The writer of TLOTF feels that, as he introduced his friend to biking, trained him, and went out for Sunday rides with him, that he is in some way responsible for the friend's death. I can understand how he feels that, but he is wrong. On a bike, almost every decision you make could be a life-or-death decision. Do I overtake now, or wait? Do I slow down for this side-road, or is that over-cautious? What's the best speed for this stretch of road, given that it is raining and there's mud on the tarmac? No-one is whispering the right answer in your ear. You have to decide, and you had better get it right. That's one of the marvellous things about riding - for once in our over-managed, risk-averse, cossetted and insulated existences, we get to make decisions that matter. It's very life-affirming.
If I took you on your first skiing trip and ten years later you were killed in an avalanche, would that make me guilty for your death? Of course not. And if I introduce you to motorcycling, help you through your first wobbly rides and be a companion to you on some great days out, does that make me responsible when some tractor driver pulls out of a field in front of you? Sorry, mate, but I wasn't there, and you made your own decisions that day. The law will take its course, and I will have to live with the thought that - perhaps - if I had acted differently ... But you only have to flip the question over to see that it is ridiculous. If we never told our friends about things in case they may later be hurt doing those things, where would it end? Social life would become impossible. I can't go for a drink with you in case I inadvertently encourage you to drink more and you may later succumb to cirrhosis of the liver. I won't accompany you on a fell-walking trip in case you slip and break a leg, or fall over a cliff and die.
No, that won't do. We must allow each other to run our own lives. We have a responsibility not to put each other into danger, but that is a long way from sharing something that moves you with a friend, something which has a potentially dangerous downside.
I wish TLOTF well, and I hope that these feelings of guilt eventually subside.