For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A Living Death

But if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone, either — or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. Wear wool next to the skin. Insure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half-cripple the present. Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see all roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to be a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.

COLIN FLETCHER  The Complete Walker

12 comments:

donna baker said...

Love that Walker. In my youth I was fearless. As I grow older I must be dead. I'll think on it. As an aside, does bathing in my new city house bath count? It is large enough for three people, with dials and buttons I haven't a clue how to work. I haven't tried it out yet as the thought crossed my mind I might drown in it. Just a funny thought that ran through my mind while reading this post. But seriously, it is a thought provoking post.

Margaret Butterworth said...

I think you should post this on the Camino de Santiago forum, where people are forever obsessing about some of these "dangers".

sackerson said...

My answer to anyone dubious about solitary walking, wild swimming etc., is, whatever you do, don't go to bed. Beds are incredibly dangerous places. You stand a high chance of dying in one one day.

And then I'll go and watch one of my favourite internet video shorts...

http://dai.ly/xyovzk

(Although, I have to say, you'll never catch me doing that).

George said...

Brilliant! So brilliant it should be read repeatedly by everyone as the first order of business each day.

Vagabonde said...

Colin Fletcher! I bought that book when it came out, in 1969, after we had hiked in the Sierra Mountains in California – it must still be here somewhere. But what he says is 100% right. I remember when I came over to the US, by myself, at 21, and took the Greyhound bus to visit 23 states, people said I was crazy and would get in trouble. No trouble and I loved the trip. The same when I went to Ethiopia years ago, friends asked me if I was not afraid – I answered I was more afraid to walk downtown Atlanta in the evenings, or Chicago – nothing happened to me in Addis Ababa. Talking about air with germs – I kept coughing while in Bangkok and also in Jakarta, Indonesia as the air was so polluted – but I am still breathing! I have read that, as people get close to death, their regret is not having traveled enough, and only stayed close to home and family too often. When we married I told my husband I would keep traveling alone, if not, no marriage for me. He was OK with it and I traveled in dozens of countries, alone – and now that it is hard to travel (since his Alzheimer) I have many great memories.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm pleased this quotation struck a chord. In my opinion — along with Edward Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire' and Peter Matthiessen's 'The Snow Leopard' — Colin Fletcher's 'The Man Who Walked through Time' stands among the finest meditative trekking books ever written. I'll be writing a post on the wonderful Colin Fletcher soon.

Vagabonde — thanks so much for this insight into your past. That, I think, is one of the secrets of a happy marriage — as well as mutual intimacy, to allow each other independence too. As Rilke said:

'Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.

The Solitary Walker said...

And, of course, thanks Donna, Margaret, Dominic and George for all your comments.

Yes, Margaret, all this obsessing about safety and equipment does rather bore me. Naturally, one has to prepare and equip and be as safe as possible. But too much anxiety can take away the pleasure of the unexpected. Sometimes one just has to go for it, to trust — and to live.

Dominic, your observation about the danger of beds amused me. You are so right! Apart from the strong likelihood of dying in bed, there are all sorts of other potential disasters lurking there — spilling a cup of scalding hot tea over oneself, missing important appointments by oversleeping etc. etc.

Friko said...

Whatever you do during your active years, however you spend them, whether you take risks or are consumed by fear, there comes a time when, for many, that living death becomes reality. Not just metaphorically.

Life: use it, wear it out, mend and refurbish it, but live it.

Ruth said...

I love everything I am finding here today, starting with the wonderful quote. Then everyone else's.

The Solitary Walker said...

I am more and more conscious of 'living' it the older I get, Friko.

Glad you enjoyed it all, Ruth!

dritanje said...

Like Ruth - and everyone else it seems, this post brings a spontaneous feeling of enjoyment. I'm not going to analyze why, but it might be along the lines of sackerson's comment - don't go to bed, it's dangerous! Perhaps it has to do with that so human taking something quite everyday( weighing up of risk which we all do don't we? well I do, especially when crossing roads) and then taking it to an extreme which shows its absurdity, and we can laugh at our funny, paradoxical human selves.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this, Dritanje. I'm now going to live dangerously and have a mid-afternoon snooze!