Thursday, 27 October 2011

Death is guaranteed.

Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli died within a week of each other, both at high profile motor sport events. Wheldon a twice winner of the Indy 500 and Simoncelli a rapidly rising start in MotoGP (World Championship motorcycle racing). Both were young men, Wheldon leaves a wife and two very young children. There have been many column inches about whether or not they needed to die and whether the level of safety in their respective disciplines is high enough. Death, though, cannot be eradicated, either in its accidental form or its natural course of life form. 

The same day Wheldon died in Las Vegas, Rick Huseman died in Barstow, California. Who was Rick Huseman? An off road racing champion, killed along with two others in a light aircraft crash. We may shrug our shoulders and say, 'well, light aircraft, they don't have the best safety record in the world.' But we still use them and Beechcraft will still sell more aircraft even if some people may well die in them. And men and some women will still race cars. 

In this day and age some health and safety concerns are ironically making us less able to be safe due to taking the thinking and doing element away from dangerous tasks. This is stupid, but this post is not about the details in that.

A now famous motor sport movie, and probably the best of the genre despite being initially universally panned by film critics, comes to mind: Le Mans. Filmed in 1971 with the icon of cool the lead character, the film's extremely sparse dialogue (and I mean EXTREMELY sparse) has a single, seeming high point, when Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney utters these immortal (to racers) words: "Lotta people go through life doing things badly. Racing's important to men who do it well. When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting."

What comes before that is what struck me, what Delaney's 'love interest', Lisa, asks him:
Lisa: When people risk their lives, shouldn't it be for something very important?
Michael: Well, it better be.
Lisa: But what is so important about driving faster than anyone else?

This is a personal question: What is important enough for you to lose you life to/for? 

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