October 16, 2019

October Shortlist – Should I be allowed to live, and die, alone?

Lizzie MacKenzie

Documentary filmHome To The Woods, 2019

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived” – Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

People have always been fascinated by those who step away from society to live a simple life in natural surroundings. From Thoreau’s Walden in 1852 to Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild in 1996. Yet, with the trappings of modern society, this way of life is becoming increasingly rare.

7 years ago, in the Scottish Highlands, I discovered a hermit named Ken Smith; a man who embodies Thoreau’s ideals and has lived his life far from the beaten track for 4 decades. His spirit and eyes shine bright despite the daily struggle necessary to survive life in the wild. As old age and illness begins to take its toll, he is facing increasing pressure from the NHS to move to a care home in civilisation. Ken, ever the rebel, is refusing and hopes to live out the rest of his days in the wilderness.

Chasing comfort and security is a norm in today’s society. Through Ken we examine what is a life well lived, and the possibility of approaching death with dignity.