Saturday, November 08, 2008

Being Scared To Death... And Loving It

I believe that much of our motivation that leads us to race cars in less than harmless conditions comes from watching our own children. Ever watch someone toss their child as far in to the sky as possible scaring the B-Jesus out of them or can you remember the same experience when you were that small? The look on their face as they seem to hang there is one of intense wondering "Will I survive? Will I be OK? Can I possibly make it without being hurt?" Once they land back into the grasp of the person helping them achieve this thrill seeking excitement, and yet even before they have caught their breath shout... "DO IT AGAIN!" It gives a whole new meaning to the old phrase, "Tossing caution to the wind."

It's that exact same thrill we seek as adults and even though we know our cars have the best safety equipment available and we know that almost everyone walks away from even the worst hand that La Carrera Panamericana deals out each year, deep inside we still know the risk is there and we know it's very real. We've all heard those questions a thousand times... Why do we risk climbing that mountain? Because it's there? No... Because we dare to push and to challenge ourselves and take on our deepest fears within head-on as we learn what we are truly made of. We have a need to know where we stand on what is a scoreboard, a comparison of men, one we are willing to accept but still have the need to know. It's this same scoreboard that helps us know when to back off or push forward and it's that same measurement that helps us reach not only our comfort level but our self dignity and esteem that every man must look for before moving on to the next mountain, the next challenge, the next fear.

Each year men will tow race cars to a country with every imaginable obstacle and hazard known to man as to why they can not or should not complete this race and yet again they forget about their fears just long enough accept the challenge to dare greatly while they look for that answer to themselves as to who they are. Some will find the answer acceptable while others will not like who they see but are to be commended for being brave enough to seek the answer from within.

In Ernest Hemingway’s "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" he describes how a man, Francis Macomber, tried to shoot a lion but failed and ended up running from the wounded lion in fear. Even though the ending is very enigmatic Macomber goes on to face his own fears and immortality while facing the charge of a charging buffalo. It was then that Francis Macomber realized he was only truly alive from the moment he first shot the buffalo and ultimately died doing what he thought he needed to do to achieve that sense of identity within himself. Hemingway has always argued that Macomber’s death was not a tragedy but in fact a triumph, because he died in the act of affirming himself exactly in the same way that pilotos look for their own identity while racing in the Great Mexican Race.

I find it ironic that such a somber reflection can be summed up by a quote from the 60's comedy series Get Smart when Maxwell Smart's chief says, "Max, you realize that you'll be facing every kind of danger imaginable." and Maxwell Smart replies, "And... loving it."

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