During our last walk, I spent a few pleasant miles musing about footpaths. Walking is good for musing. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy it, over and above the pleasures of the open air, the sights and the sounds, the lovely views - and keeping a wary eye on cows.
As far as I can see, there are three types of walker.
The talker – never shuts up.
The quiet, musing type.
Those who do a bit of both.
I have to confess, that I veer quite strongly towards the second group. I talk a little here and there, but not much. I prefer to muse. As I see it, a six hour walk gives you, allowing for stops etc, a good four to five hours of solid musing. Where else can you get that?
Anyhow, my latest muse covered a number of ephemeral notions, but I kept coming back to the subject of footpaths. Derbyshire has a lot of them. 1800 miles is one estimate, so getting to know them well is no simple task.
As I toiled up hills and squelched through ankle-deep mud, I mused this tangle of almost unknowable footpaths into an analogy of life itself.
Muse the first. We may walk the network of paths as much as we wish, turn this way or that, but very few people, if any, will ever know them completely.
Muse the second. The complexity of all those footpaths is dwarfed by the complexity of life itself.
So all we can do is walk this way or that, see what we see, enjoy the view and muse our incomplete musings. Because we can’t sum up the complexities of real life – not in the sense of describing, explaining and predicting what comes next. Not is the sense of creating reliable maps.
Okay, this is hardly a ground-breaking, or even a ground-softening muse, but so often we tend to pass over complexity. We tend to assume that if we try hard enough and long enough, we’ll crack the secret code. But we won’t and we know we won’t, but so often we carry on as if it’s possible.
But it isn’t.
It’s beyond us – always will be. The best we can do is walk, muse and be advised by those we trust. Beyond that lies deceit or madness.
Take your pick.