Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I had reason recently to talk of Alfred Nobel. Yep, him of the prizes. What's less well known about him is that he also invented dynamite. And more remarkable than that is the fact that two are linked.

Alfred Nobel had the (not unique, but unusual) chance to read his own obituary - a newspaper thought that he had died and published it. It named him "Le marchand de la mort" The merchant of death for his invention of dynamite. He went on the leave his great fortune as a legacy to establish the Nobel Prizes. He did this, for the very understandable reason that he wanted a better obituary.

Tombstone inscriptions fascinate me as how can you possibly sum up a life in so few words? But also because I think it may capture something very important.

In will come as no shock to any of you (I hope) that you're all gonna die someday. Given that fact, I would argue that a vitally important question is what do you want your life to count for? What do you want to do with your life?

I think that thinking about one's own epitaph is a helpful way to approach this question.

So, what do you want written on your tombstone?

I doubt anyone will beat the excellent Spike Milligan's choice "I told you I was ill..."

Paul Eddington's "He did very little harm" has always intrigued me.

So what would I choose? The honest answer is I'm not sure but here's a couple of possibilities:

"He found himself ridiculous"
"He was caring, thoughtful and just a little bonkers"