The Great Escape?

Life does not always have a sense of economy with the way it dishes things out, and Richard Hammond is perhaps one of the finest examples of what this means.

In terms of the way we measure success, he’s done a pretty good job of ticking all the boxes. He’s got a glamorous career, a beautiful family, a stunning home, and a few quid in the bank. Fortune seems to smile on him. Then we come to his two spectacular crashes, and things start to get a little more complicated.

People like to look for patterns. It’s hard-wired into us, and with good reason. Being able to make the connection between having eaten a handful of shiny red berries and getting sick is essential to survival. In Richard Hammond’s case, though, the normal laws of cause and effect don’t seem to apply. Speeding car plus loss of control equals dramatic crash. This is a basic equation, but the expectation is not that the driver escapes relatively unscathed. To do so once may be regarded as great fortune, to do so twice looks like, well, this is where is gets interesting. What does it look like?

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that things happen by accident or design, a momentous event is going to pose a few questions. As far as Richard Hammond goes, beyond the physical impact, who knows? What does it feel like to look in the mirror? Is there a little part of him that wonders if this is personal? Does it seem as though he’s playing some kind of crazy game of trust with the universe? It might be that he views it all as nothing more than one of the risks of the job. Or perhaps the love and the laughter run a little deeper, and each sunset takes on an extra hue that is off the spectrum for most people. These kinds of shifts in perspective might be the best one could hope for after a near death experience. Or two.

As for the rest of us, is there any meaning we can draw from something we have only witnessed as distant bystanders? In terms of inspirational figures, there are undoubtedly those who are far more worthy of the title. Surviving car crashes isn’t particularly heroic. It’s not exactly triumph over adversity. He didn’t really do anything. In spite of the fact there is no moral victory, in a world beset with tragedy these remarkable escapes do have a kind of resonance.

Even though life can be entirely immoderate, the outcome of any given situation is not guaranteed. To have an example to look to, someone who is living proof of this, is quite special. It may not be inspirational, and it isn’t even about hope. It’s something less grand but just as worthwhile. It’s a pure knowledge, a basic and reassuring truth, and if that’s his gift to the world, whether it was intended or not, it’s a pretty good one.