The empty spot in our souls.
Deep in the psyche of ever man (and woman) is the desire to find peace and a bit of solitude. If we don’t feed this primal nature in some way there will forever be an empty spot in our souls. French travel writer, Sylvain Tesson tried out the “Robinson Crusoe” lifestyle on the shores of Lake Baikal, Russia. The question is did he fill this modernly romanticized part of his life?
Feeding the deep desire
His cabin where he would spend his six month tenure was on the Lake’s western shore, to reach civilization it would take a 6 day walk to the closest village. His nearest neighbor would be a pressing one day walk (19 miles) in good weather. So what compelled him to choose this lifestyle? Tesson had visited Lake Baikal several times before, but on his visit in 2003 while walking the Lake’s shoreline he came upon those who wanted to feed this deep want. In each of them he found this strange peace being fulfilled. Five years later he spent three days in a tiny izba, a small traditional Russian cabin. It was during this time period he made the decision to return to Lake Baikal and live several months in solitude. His reasoning, “I wanted to experiment with the simple life and claim back time”.
Experiencing the day to day life alone
His abode was the home of Volodya and Ludmilla who had spent 15 years of their lives on the shore of Lake Baikal. What was built to be a geologists hut became the home for the park rangers who were spaced approximated at 19 mile intervals around the reserve. Once they had abandoned their domicile, our modern-day reclusenik moved in. He was well prepared with his fishing poles, axe and cleaver, kerosene lamp, ice drill, saw, snowshoes, tent, liquor glasses and vodka, cigars, provisions (pasta, rice, Tabasco sauce, coffee) and a library of almost 80 books. He was now ready to experience the day to day life, alone, in the woods. I don’t think Robinson Crusoe had it so good.
Expand your thinking
So what does one do if they don’t have their man “Friday”. How do you keep yourself from going crazy without a soul to talk to? It seems that Tesson surrounded himself with a variety of authors to expand his thinking. His choices ranged from Michel Déon for melancholy, DH Lawrence for sensuality, some philosophers (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, the Stoics), Sade and Casanova to stir his blood. Tesson claimed, “If I had not had books, I would have gone quickly mad”.
You can find happiness in the possibility of things
It seems that those who live in remote cabins like this can quickly fall into depression, or have bouts of cabin fever. We’ve all heard that no man is an island, but in this environment one can surely come close to it. It seems that the wisest thing he did was divide up his days. The first part of his day was devoted to spiritual things, the second half more physical aspects like exploring his 19 mile island so to speak. One of Tesson’s comments that really touched me was, “Each day goes by, a mirror of the one before, a rough draft of the one to come”. He continued to say, “You can find happiness in the possibility of things, but you can also find it in knowing exactly what will happen.” In conclusion he said, “It is peaceful, a very slow life, but you become rich.”
One brings peace the other…….
So I will conclude my thoughts, “as we walk our lives are we seeking to enrich them? Or become rich? One brings peace the other………..well you decide.