And not like peanuts—the poi­sonous as­sas­sins of grade school sand­wiches that make their deadly in­ten­tions known early on, leav­ing ge­net­i­cally-screwed vic­tims clutch­ing Epipens and hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing over their shoul­ders. No, coconuts dan­gle idyl­li­cally, hang­ing sym­bols of trop­i­cal re­lax­ation (ad­mit­tedly ap­pro­pri­ated by the health food in­dus­trial com­plex, whipped and chained along­side the bedrag­gled bod­ies of quinoa and kale), un­til they fall from the sky, milk-swollen bul­lets speeding from heaven’s ar­bi­trar­ily aimed bar­rel, drop­ping un­sus­pect­ing beach­go­ers at ran­dom, leav­ing them splayed out sea­side like typ­i­cal towel tot­ers, the only dif­fer­ence a lack of breath and red river of blood flow­ing from skull to sand.

The sway­ing palm tree, peace­ful as it seems, is a smok­ing gun. Coconuts kill peo­ple. Con­sider the facts: a palm tree can top out at 90 feet, and its bulging fruit can weigh over 3 pounds—you don’t need a masters in physics to com­pre­hend the co­conut’s deadly po­ten­tial. Had Sir Isaac New­ton been va­ca­tion­ing in one of colo­nial Bri­tain’s trop­i­cal out­posts in­stead of a dreary English or­chard and fate swapped a co­conut for that in­fa­mous ap­ple, the young sci­en­tist’s first would’ve been his only law.

Let the grav­ity of that sink in. And if life truly is, as they say, a beach, then how do we nav­i­gate this beau­ti­ful bat­tle­ground, how do we dodge these un­pre­dictable pro­jec­tiles? Be­cause coconuts are falling, every­day, whether or not we’re drink­ing pale Mex­i­can lagers beach­side. Can­cer, aneurysms, car crashes, freak ac­ci­dents — these coconuts of prov­i­dence ca­reen into the sands of our lives, some­times so far­away we barely rec­og­nize their re­ver­ber­a­tions; some­times flam­ing me­te­orites so close they singe our cheeks, snatch­ing those we love with­out rea­son; some­times they crack open our own skulls and Death greets us with­out so much as a hand­shake.

A risk-averse per­son might avoid this beach com­pletely, opt­ing to lock the doors and shut­ter the win­dows—pre­fer­ring screen­saver palm trees to the real thing. But Death doesn’t knock on doors, he kicks them down. He doesn’t al­ways fold when you make safe bets; he col­lects the pot, drag­ging it across casino green vel­vet with a sharp­ened scythe—be­cause no mat­ter how you gam­ble, the house al­ways wins.

This isn’t a call to to go all-in reck­lessly, to be care­less, to risk it all with­out worry, to stand un­der a fruit-heavy palm in a hur­ri­cane with your eyes closed un­til Chicken Lit­tle’s prophetic chirps turn true. Rather, it’s a ques­tion: at what point do we ac­cept that a can­non­ball to the cra­nium will come call­ing? When do we trade that stale Ken Burns loop of par­a­disi­a­cal screen­savers for the st­ing and salt of the ocean, for sun­cracked lips, for waves that de­liver ter­ror and ec­stasy in the same sub­lime thun­der­clap?

Coconuts kill peo­ple. Yet, de­spite this truth, we’ve been con­di­tioned to for­get half of the palm tree’s be­ing: it’s not only a giver of life, but a mas­ter of death. And we’d be fool­ish not to re­al­ize that we’re drawn to the sea be­cause it op­er­ates with the same du­al­ity—it be­stows life and takes it away in the same breath.

Death twirls a sling­shot in one hand, tosses a co­conut up and down in the other. And while we can’t stay his hunger—the one guar­an­tee gifted to us at birth—we can choose ei­ther to fruit­lessly hide from him in the shad­ows, liv­ing a half-life in the process; or we can walk boldly through a tun­nel of palm fronds into the sun­light, ac­knowl­edg­ing the salt-stained signs nailed into the tree trunks that read, with bib­li­cal solem­nity, “Be­ware of Falling Coconuts,” and go surf—re­al­iz­ing that risk isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a de­fi­ance of death, but a cel­e­bra­tion of life—grin­ning in the face of the fragility, the im­per­ma­nence, the ran­dom­ness of it all.

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