For living and dying
THE SHADOW OF DEATH hovers above the racing roads. Obscured by the haze of self-belief and the pavement’s luminous lines, death waits to indiscriminately pluck a soul from beneath his bower, one and then another, until none are spared his touch.
There is no family in the history of motorcycle racing greater than the Dunlops. And none whose incontrovertible legend of greatness is so tormented by death.
When William Dunlop died this past July during a practice for the Skerries roadrace in Dublin, roadracing fans were struck silent with disbelief. He is the third Dunlop to perish on the roads, preceded by his father, Robert, and uncle, Joey. Michael Dunlop, Robert’s driven, hardnosed youngest son, is the last of that great racing dynasty.
In the biblical account of Job, Satan inflicts suffering upon him, believing he will lose his humanity—or, more accurately, define his humanity—in light of great suffering. “Then Satan answered the Lord and said: ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.’”
We wear our tenuous grasp on mortality like a talisman, cherishing the illusory perception of life’s permanence as though to ward off the bleakness of the beyond. We would forsake all bonds of fidelity to preserve our lives. Death is unnatural. Death is to be feared. But death comes for all.
If Michael Dunlop once again dons his famous black-and-white helmet as he lines up on Glencrutchery Road, there will no doubt be cries that he is possessed by a kind of madness. But in his madness is wisdom. Ecclesiastes tells us, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
It seems to the casual observer that the Dunlops, unlike average men, have not made idols of their own mortality. It is a reminder that death cannot be conquered, for it is part of living. The wise man knows we are all “the living of the dead.” He knows that we race not in spite of death, but because of it.