Hail oh, hail oh, Infantry / Queen of Battle follow me / The soldier’s life, the life me / So pick up your weapon and follow me
I am sitting out on my back deck composing this Note in the usual fashion - strong black coffee on my right-hand side, Moleskin notebook on my left-hand side. The day, weather-wise, is not as glorious as yesterday, but the day itself will be monumental by the end as my son ships off to the army.
In fact, It’s been a milestone weekend so far. Yesterday, we drove to Birmingham to pack all of our daughter’s possessions into my Outlander. She has officially finished university with a 1st in neuroscience. A new adventure begins for her now as she tries to figure out how to navigate life after Uni.
It was easy for me.
When I graduated Uni, I owed the army five years of my life in exchange for having paid for my university education. I got to skip the “got a degree, now go find a job" phase. My path was already written - summer off, then Infantry Officer’s Basic course, then Ranger School (in the dead of winter, which sucked), followed by Bradley Commander’s course, and a short stint working at the Army Physical Fitness School before finally reporting to my first unit - 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion 5th Cavalry Regiment (Black Knights), 1st Armor Division (Old Ironside), just in time to gear up for Bosnia.
Up in the morning and out of the rack / Greeted at dawn by a mortar attack / Bombs and artillery, bursting all around me / Singing Hail oh, hail oh Infantry / Queen of Battle follow me / Nothing in this life is ever free / So pick up your weapon and follow me
But for the kids, the road is not so clear. There are decisions to be made about where to live, which companies to seek work from, resume/CV writing, and then straight into the ups and downs of job-hunting and finding a decent job - one that pays reasonably well and has potential for growth.
It has taken my son two years to figure out what he wants to do. He has now chosen the soldier’s life (his decision, not mine). In a few hours, we will be driving him down to Alexander Barracks in Pirbright to begin Army Basic Training. He didn’t choose Infantry like his dad, but hey you can’t have everything!
It’s a tough old world to navigate.
Watching my son and daughter set off on their new life adventures has inspired me. I say ‘inspired’ but it’s probably more like prodded than inspired to begin my next life adventure. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like yet, but simplify is the first word that comes to mind.
Simplify my lifestyle.
Simplify my message.
And on the flip-side of simplify is focus.
Focus on what is truly important and shed the rest.
#41: I’ve had a lot of conversations this week about being who you are and doing your thing regardless of what other people are saying and doing. Yes, it’s not easy (at least not for most), but it’s the straight road to joy and comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are. Joy is an inner game and is more consistent than happiness, which is usually triggered externally.
#42: I feel a tug toward reviving the old philosophies, particularly the pragmatic schools of stoicism and epicureanism which concerned themselves with providing guidance on how to deal with everyday situations like:
How to cope with a friend’s death
How to work up courage
How to act well in morally difficult situations
How to make the most of life
Things that I deal with as a coach, but where as coaching is more of a reflective mirror to another, I want to flip this and be more of a guide.
And like all good guides, I must have first hand experience of the place - the local knowledge, the hidden gems, and the dangers.
I remember years back talking to a friend about past lives. One of the lives I remembered or imagined I remembered is that of a pathfinder. I imagined my role in the tribe as the person who goes out on his own to find new paths for the tribe, and then comes back to share what he has found, celebrate with the tribe, share stories, and then after a time (usually when boredom begins to set in) disappears again out into the jungle to find new paths.
I’ve kind of hinted and scraped at this over the past several years, but lacked clarity as to what shaped this could take in my life as it is. I’m beginning to see how these Notes can serve as a medium for sharing what I find out there in the jungles of the mind, the Internet, and life. Stuff I can come back and share with you - the tribe.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working on the value proposition for these Notes so that it is clear why you might want to stick around and spend some of your time with me.
I feel this venture will be a blend of Montaigne, Kerouac, Bukowski, Lin Yutang, Li Po, Basho, Herodotus, and Epicurus as the patron saint of the venture.
#43: Want to know if you’re living your life well? Try this thought experiment from the epicurean writer Lucretius:
#44: Learning to live appropriately is the “Great and glorious masterpiece” of human life.
“Place before you mind’s eye the vast spread of time’s abyss, and consider the universe; and then contrast our so called human life with infinity.”
“Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish, but wish for everything to happen as it actually does happen, and your life will be serene.”
“If I had to live over again, I would live as I have lived.”
And the BIG question to you: If you had to live your life over again, would you live your life exactly as you have lived it?
#45: In the pragmatic philosophies, the two that appeal to me most are the stoics and the epicureans. I used to be a diehard stoic, but now I’m leaning more toward the epicureans.
I like this distinction between the two:
If stoics are boxers, epicureans are closer to oriental martial arts practitioners. A stoic behaves like a man who tenses his stomach muscles and invites an opponent to punch them. An epicurean prefers to invite no punches, and when bad things happen, simply step out of the way.
Musical interlude: Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
#46: It was only after he died that I became familiar with Anthony Bourdain. Turns out, one of my friends is a big fan of his and shared this video of Bourdain with me and now I am hooked. And in true Clay fashion I was straight onto Amazon to buy Bourdain’s first book: Kitchen Confidential - Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Loved this video interview of Bourdain:
“The world is filled with people trying to do the best they can.”
#47: And this has to be my new ambition:
“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.”
I’ve been dipping back into Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, which is classic example of Chinese philosophy of life:
Revere inaction as much as action, invoke humour to maintain a healthy attitude, and never forget that there will always be plenty of fools around who are willing-indeed, eager-to be busy, to make themselves useful, and to exercise power while you bask in the simple joy of existence.
Put simply: savour life’s simple pleasures, which isn’t so easy to do is a society to values busyness, productivity, and the endless to-do list.
Ok time to go see a young soldier off on his new adventure. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, much appreciated. And don’t forget to the share the love with someone you know.
Peace and love,
My old army days. This was taken with a Czech soldier in Poland.