For liv­ing and dy­ing

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Seth Richards

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.

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