Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


How should we live?

Someone suggested The Salt Path for our book club on Smart Patients. I was attracted to it because Ray’s (the author) and Moth’s (her husband) circumstances are similar to mine. Like Moth, I have an incurable disease that will cause my brain to deteriorate and will eventually result in my death and, like Moth, I have no expiry date.

Ray and Moth got screwed in a business deal and they lost everything from their home to their source of income to their favourite sheep. They were left homeless and the only thing they can think of to do is to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path around the coasts of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. They survived on thirty pounds per week by camping in the wild and eating noodles and seaweed.

Bedruthan Steps. Photographer Jaap Gaasenbeek

Like Ray & Moth, I will soon have to move out of the house that I love. My straits aren’t quite as dire as Ray & Moth’s — I have savings — but my future too is entirely uncertain. I happen to live near the start of the South West Coastal Path and the idea of catching the bus down to Minehead and leaving everything behind is really appealing about now.

I was moved by the constant, nagging question that Ray asks: “What next?”. I ask myself the same question every day. Their constant answer: “We just keep going” was inspirational — though I wish I were doing something a bit more heroic with my final days like wild camping or trekking through the jungles of Burma instead of writing code and paying the mortgage.

Several companies ago, when it became clear that our startup was not going to make it and we had to do something different to survive, we had a meeting of the leadership team and I argued that it would be better to go into battle swinging from the yardarms with our cutlasses between our teeth than to just keep sailing along, hoping that our fortunes might change with the wind. Better to go down in glory, adventurers to the very end, than to wait for the end to come to us. Someone else countered that he had a mortgage to pay and that now was not the time to try anything risky. We chose to wait patiently for the end but I quit before the end arrived.

The book that we ended up choosing for our book club — Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life — asks the question “How should we live?”.

I wish I had the book with the answer.