A cinematography skydiver named Albert “Gus” Wing III was killed on Saturday when he was struck by–wait for it–that’s right, a wing! After opening his parachute the plane that he had just jumped out of with thirteen other skydivers struck him (with the wing) severing his legs at the knees. The guy survives the collision but dies from his injuries at the hospital later that day. Coincidence? A guy named Wing, first of all, ends up being a professional skydiver. And one day, in a seemingly routine dive, Mr. Wing is killed by well, a wing.

Maybe this is irony more than coincidence, but coincidence is a funny thing.

This is explained in the opening prologue of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, “Magnolia.” The narrator guides the audience through several unlikely scenarios of chance and coincidence that display, with great humor, how past relevance can intrude on the present. In one scenario, a man plummets off the side of a building in a suicide attempt, but is inflicted with a shotgun blast on his way to landing in a net that would have surely saved his life. The shotgun was fired by his mother from an apartment several floors below. With shotgun cocked, she was violently threatening her husband when the weapon accidentally fired and struck their son on his descent. To her knowledge the gun was never loaded. Coincidentally, it was the suicide “victim” that had loaded the weapon a few weeks prior hoping that it would end his his parents’ years of fighting. The narrator tells us “these strange things happen all the time.”

The only thing that would make this incident, the wing incident, as coincidental as the one in the film would be if Mr. Wing was killed for giving the pilot a strong sedative from his bag earlier that morning that he mistook for a pain killer because his wife changed the containers in his bag in an attempt to be helpful but accidentally forgot to tell him. Or “something” like that, but we may never know it. Either way, life always finds a way to be stranger than fiction.

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