Living well is simply the art of pointing oneself in the right direction as soon as possible, and then beginning to move, no matter how slowly.
As long as we’re going in the right direction it’s okay to be creeping along at a snail’s pace. The important thing is just to get moving in the right direction as soon as possible. But that’s harder than it might sound.
It’s amazing how easy it is to waste years of one’s life moving the wrong direction, focused on the wrong things, or perhaps not really moving in any direction at all. I’m sure that most of us have looked back and found wasted years, even if they were wasted with the best of intentions. Far better to spend those years moving slowly in the right direction than to spend them standing still or going the wrong way.
It is most urgent, then, to discover who we want to be. Perhaps it is better to say that what we need is to discover what is the best life for a human to live, so that we can then pursue that life (insofar as it is possible according to our own particular capacities).
It is sensible to say that we should begin by equipping ourselves for the weighty task that stands before us. We need to train our body and mind and habits to carry us along the difficult path ahead.
What if the teenage years and twenties were spent not only preparing for a career but also studying languages, and pursuing health and strength and fitness, and learning about important moments of world history?
A person’s twenties and thirties could then be spent reading philosophy and literature and political rhetoric and such summaries of the natural sciences as would be useful for the project of understanding.
Think how that would set a person up to spend the rest of their life searching for, and living out, the best life for a human person?
A strong and healthy body, fuelled with ideal nutrition and formed by invigorating exercise, would support a resilient brain and a long life with fewer health challenges.
A growing collection of languages learned would open up wisdom and insight from all over the world and all through history.
Familiarity with the great minds and events of world history enables us to meet and test whatever ideas and proposals arise for our consideration in a way that is mature and sophisticated.
Perhaps we’re behind on the programme I’ve outlined. I certainly am.
It’s okay. As long as we’re moving in the right direction now, even if it can only be at a slow pace, we should take comfort in that fact.