Friday, July 03, 2009


Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes by Robert Kull
Years after losing his lower right leg in a motorcycle crash, Robert Kull traveled to a remote island in Patagonia’s coastal wilderness with equipment and supplies to live alone for a year. He sought to explore the effects of deep solitude on the body and mind and to find the spiritual answers he’d been seeking all his life. With only a cat and his thoughts as companions, he wrestled with inner storms while the wild forces of nature raged around him. The physical challenges were immense, but the struggles of mind and spirit pushed him even further. Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes is the diary of Kull’s tumultuous year. Chronicling a life distilled to its essence, Solitude is also a philosophical meditation on the tensions between nature and technology, isolation and society. With humor and brutal honesty, Kull explores the pain and longing we typically avoid in our frantically busy lives as well as the peace and wonder that arise once we strip away our distractions. He describes the enormous Patagonia wilderness with poetic attention, transporting the reader directly into both his inner and outer experiences.
I don't know what it is in me that likes to read books like this. I guess there's some part of me that wishes I had it in me to chuck it all and hit the road, live in my jeep or just walk out into the wilderness and disappear. I wouldn't ever do that because I would survive about half a day. And yet something in me yearns for it. Perhaps it's the dormant hunter/gatherer instincts crying out for release from civilization. I just don't know.
I do know this...I have deep respect for folks who pull it off whether successfully or not. I absolutely love the story of Chris McCandless from Into the Wild. He didn't survive but I applaud his effort and his reason for doing it. Same goes for Kull who did survive. I hate admitting that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped. His philosophizing got a bit tedious for me and I really didn't enjoy his admittances of abusing his cat companion. He could have glossed it all over though so I appreciate his honesty. Warts and all, this is his story and I'm glad to have read it.

1 comment:

becca said...

You don't want to know what most Alaskans think of Chris from 'Into the Wild'...
The 'surviving off the land' mystique that attracts guys like him (unprepared, unwilling to believe how dangerous it is, with romantic notions) get us fairly frustrated/angry. Outsiders who come up and expect to be able to survive in the Alaskan wilderness without prep, research or the right gear, and have some romantic image of Jack London or Jack Kerouac...
Let's just say we tend to think they get what they deserve when they die. And that's actually a VERY kind way of saying what some people up here would say.
Alaska's beautiful, but deadly.
I'm all for leaving everything and going on the road, and living off the land. (Amazing how much that notion attracts me. One of the things I'll say to Jake when I'm feeling overwhelmed is 'Okay, I'm done. Let's go join the circus.' And he knows I'm only half joking...)
Anyway, yeah. I still have those old Grizzly Adams, Michael Landon movies in my head from the 70's. The living off the land, going back to nature ones...
Just please. Not in Alaska. Go somewhere where people can maybe find you if you get lost. Even if you've got a vague idea where the person might be, searching for somebody in Alaska is like trying to find one person in the middle of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.
Okay. That's enough. I need to stop now. ;)