… divided we fall

Heraclitus: “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

I think you could make the same observation about a typical amateur race. Some of the cars on track shouldn’t even be there. Most of the cars are just getting in and out of each others way. A precious few cars are actually racing. Like a battle, racing is dangerous and people/cars could get hurt or even killed. The difference, and it’s a huge difference, is that everyone in the race paid money to have fun.

In the aftermath of the accident above, you will find many opinions. Some would say that the Spitfire that got rammed had no business being on track. Some would say the fault lies with the faster car because they can choose to pass elsewhere. Some just shout “noobs check your mirrors” because they learned somewhere that rudeness is an effective form of teaching and communication (it isn’t). Some would blame the entire racing series that allows such a wide range of cars and drivers on track.

Instead of laying blame, let’s try to solve the problem proactively with the simple realization that we’re all in this together. Driving racecars is a privilege. It’s a wasteful and irresponsible activity that brings huge smiles to our faces when everything goes right. Next time you’re on track and you see something dangerous brewing (which happens every time cars are near each other), imagine the person in the other car is your spouse, child, relative, or friend. Would you pass them more safely? Would you allow them to pass you more safely? Would you make sure they are also having a good time?

There is no big prize waiting at the finish line. There is no contract with NASCAR or Formula 1 in your future. There is no point in driving angry. Instead, drive under the platinum rule. No, not the Golden Rule, for that rule is self-centered. “Do unto others as you would want done to you” assumes the other person has the same value system as you. They may have entered the race for completely different reasons than you. If they’re driving a non-competitive car, you can be sure that the reason wasn’t trying to win. The Platinum Rule is “do unto others as they would want have done to them”. This is difficult because it takes effort for you to imagine how they want to be treated. Instead of driving as if the other cars are opponents in battle, drive as if they are kin and you are training together.

In the words of Ian Maclaren (or maybe Plato): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. And if you are one of Heraclitus’ warriors, thank you for bringing the others back.

5 thoughts on “… divided we fall

  1. Interesting. One of the most senseless instances of momentum transfer I have ever seen and one that brings home the rule about it being the overtaking car’s responsibility to make the pass cleanly. The Spitfire was clearly having a problems, possibly driver skill, possibly mechanical, maybe even driver health, while the overtaking car seems to have been in a speed-induced alternate state of mind.


  2. I was there for that, we were in the 128 car that you see driving by in the windshield after the crashed car comes to a halt. The Spitfire was slow, really slow, all the time, and they’d do stuff like not track out to leave the line clear for the people who were racing, which looks like what happened here. It was 20-30 seconds off the pace of the faster cars with a good driver, and slower than that sometimes. It’s a feature of LeMons; there will be slow cars on track, racing in the slow class or just out there for an IOE (basically the prize for the crappiest race car), so you have to account for them. With the guitars on the trunk it was very visible and easy to recognize, so you knew when you approached it that you were negotiating a rolling chicane and that you had to be careful because the speed difference was very high.


    1. Seems like a good illustration of the rule of thumb that being predictable is more important than being “nice” – the passing car looks like they were assuming that the Spitfire would stay on the line. That does make me wonder (with no knowledge since I wasn’t there) if they’d have been somewhat faster if they had taken the racing line, ironically resulting in fewer situations where they would have been holding people up in the first place.


      1. Since I just read it on my bike trainer this morning, I’ll include this quote from a really smart guy in J is for Judgements:

        “Note that you can drive too defensively. If you drive so defensively that you become unpredictable, you will be a hazard to everyone around you.”


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