To Be And To Last #30

This week we explore a motorcycle racing doctor in Northern Ireland, the science behind an incredible F1 accident recovery, and the value of work.

What is the value of work?

“The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.” - Ernest Hemingway in The Old Man and The Sea

This week I finally read Hemingway’s masterpiece, The Old Man and The Sea. An aging fisherman, Santiago, seeks to prove he still has “it” and embarks on an epic battle with the largest fish of his life.

In the process, he explores the motivation and value of work: If the reward of work is eventually lost the the relentless and senseless entropy of time, then what is the purpose?

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.” - Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man

While Hemingway explicitly celebrates dedication in the face of hopelessness, both Hemingway and Pope unite in the eventuality of hope: either in a life to come (Pope), or in the lives of those left behind (Hemingway).

Decreasing the cost of failure

Last week, F1 racer Romain Grosjean slammed into a wall at 137 mph and exploded in a ball of fire. Then he walked away.

The reason? Decades of injury prevention research: from self-extinguishing fabric to a neck support system that’s eliminated basilar skull fractures in racing since 2003.

The #1 blocker for any high level athlete is their own body. Injuries cost valuable training time (or worse), and the fear of injury holds us back from our limits.

I couldn’t be more excited for a future where this technology is applied more widely. Maybe one day we’ll all be as prepared as Y.T. in Snowcrash, who skateboards through traffic with a Kourier suit that predictively protects from accidents.

Recovering from failure

Reading about Grosjean’s accident (above) reminded me of Dr. John Hinds excellent training on motorcycle trauma response (warning: some disturbing images).

Dr. Hinds provided first responder support to motorcycle races in Northern Ireland, but with one unexpected twist: due to the course nature, Dr. Hinds himself deployed on a racing motorcycle in order to reach accident scenes rapidly. Well worth a watch.


To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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