30 year old race car driver Paul Dana was killed today. I don't follow racing like I used to. I was a fan of Formula racing until 1994 when Aryton Senna, my favourite driver died in a race on May 1st. A few weeks before on April 8 Kurt Cobain was found dead in his house in Seattle. Senna was 34 and Cobain was 27. Both of them were at the very pinnacle of their chosen arts and both of them seemed capable of more great things.
I was teaching an introductory Philosophy class that spring at the suburban campus of the University and I recall the typical brutally cold Great Lakes winter. The term was just about done. It was perhaps the first really bright warm day of the year which made even more cruel the news to come. I was driving to get some lunch when I heard of Cobain's death on the car radio. The first thing that came out of my mouth were the words "you fucking idiot!"... said not with malice but with the realization of the great waste of a life. I am of the opinion that anyone in a suicidal tailspin with some perspective would realize that it is not really as bad as it might seem.
A few years before these deaths I was in such a state when it seemed futile and painful to carry on. The curious thing is that I decided then that instead of ever contemplating taking my own life I would instead feel free and unafraid to pursue such dangerous activities as mountain-climbing and race-car driving. I wonder if the Aryton Sennas of the world have made a similar pact with their inhibitions. I wonder if the Kurt Cobains of the world are perhaps in a similar nihilistic death spiral facilitated by their high risk lifestyles.
If you look at the results listing of a car race you will note that after the numeric ordering of the leaders there are a number of entries at the bottom of the list with the leters "DNF" beside their names for "Did Not Finish". Paul Dana, Aryton Senna as well as Kurt Cobain and any other young person who takes their own life are all DNF in more ways than one.