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STOIC POETRY | The Path of Wildness

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 20, 2019

Dear Eric,

I've an opportunity to exercise what is perhaps my earliest principle - The Path of Wildness:

The Path of Wildness is easy to find The course of a stream Leaves blown in the wind A beast's track through the brush And the direction of our first inclination

In particular, I've been offered a chance of new work in a new city. I know this routine well, it means a new life; or rather, a new chapter in my one and only life. Yumiko - my wife - knows this routine also, as she's been my partner in all but one of the many chapters we've so far shared. But should we do it - assuming the offer comes through? Should we give up our current safe and sane - a quite wonderful safe and sane to be sure - for the doubt and challenge of what is largely unknown?

I've done the math and the figures show nicely in favor of going. I learned that I must work until age 67 anyway, something about the way Social Security is set up, and so this is the same if we stay or go. And though my prospects at my current job are good if I stay, they aren't bad either if I go. It's safer, I think, to stay. As I've developed a reputation and many connections of trust and appreciation built of hard work and a dedication to doing good. Sure, I can build these again in the new place, but that's a lot of social capital to give up. But on the other hand, it may be wise to spread myself a little more around the public-sector community of Information Technology (my field), should hard times come and I need or wish to leverage connections for a new situation. But I'm not young. I'll be fifty-six with my next birthday. But yeah, I'll be fifty-six... How many more adventures have I got left in me?? And then there's my wife... She seems keen. I think she'd like a change. Heck, we'd both like a change. Not that this life is bad, but because we both enjoy change. Change is the thing we both love. Living many lives in a single lifetime is our hobby. It's the quality that brought us together and propelled us through our life together to date. We both know we'll need to settle at last. But in the we have another adventure yet to enjoy and partake? I suspect we do. This is the gut feeling which I'll address shortly.

What I've just done there...that paragraph the first part of The Path of Wildness. It's the exercise of evaluation, of collecting and assessing the facts of the case and the options ahead. It's looking at what is real and making an honest case for and against, or towards one option or the other, to the right or the left, or whatever decision might be made...or not be made; for not deciding is also an option, though maybe a very dangerous option. Can you live with yourself later if you do not decide? If you withdraw from the challenge of worthy life consideration, will you then find yourself haunted later with the echo of "what if?” Surely, that's a risk. Surely that's a fact. It's that risk - the risk of avoiding risk - which we attempt to assuage through the bold treatment of options just ahead of the life we might - or might not - live. And so, I'll step boldly - perhaps with shaking legs - upon The Path of Wildness and make my choice.

The Path of Wildness is easy to find The course of a stream Leaves blown in the wind A beast's track through the brush And the direction of our first inclination
The Path of Wildness

And now, I've assessed the facts and I know better the reality of the options before me. I'll be darned if the way isn't clear. Even if the way is clear, it still isn't clear; as there is doubt and suspect and worry and possible regret huddled nearby whispering among themselves in the shadows of my fear. Muss muss goes the gossipy voices... Muss muss they seem to say, while shooting me convicting looks and glances of forecast blame and accusation. "Speak up!" I shout at them, which only makes the skeleton-thin figures retreat further into the dark. "Be damned, I know you may be right. All of you. You may be right. But what worth such a life of fear? What value to the great ambition of living is it to cower there in the dark? Sure, there's protection should the great sky open with a cloudburst we know must come. Yes, the skies are dark and there's an echo of distant thunder. But I'm not with you in this fear of yours. As I don't fear the rain or the storm or the lightning blast and strike with might surely kill. For death too comes in the gathering dark. And it will find us all despite our seeming shelter; if we stand open to the sky or huddled in the cave, death will find us all. And you can tell one another your stories of forever. And make the darkness and the dank enclosure better for your feign belief. But I don't believe you. For you have no better reason to believe than belief itself, which is simply wishful thinking. And so, I'll leave you now, you huddled mess of my mind. Go on with your fear. I'm going outside to give the matter one last think. I'm going to climb to that near ridge and survey what is really out there. And then I'll make my mind one way or the other. And if I need, I'll consult my gut which has already made up its mind. My gut, which is the instinct of youth and an apparition of my better self, the self which will live while it can and die when it must. Such better council than the night. The light is always such better council than the night.”

And so, I'll walk out and up and look and consult and then decide. And then I'll move boldly forward onto whatever way my consulted and resolved self decides. And accept whatever end I then find.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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