Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Stranger in the Woods

Just like many of the residents who lived and summered around North Lake, Maine, I kept asking myself if this story is real or is it one of the really fine hoaxes similar to the story of drug addiction fed to us several years ago by James Frey in A Million Little Pieces .

Come on, who can survive in the woods for nearly 30 years, undetected, living off necessities stolen from nearby homes and cottages, illness free, and speaking only once in all that time to hikers on a secluded road?  I knew that if I were to make it to the end of this book I would have to suspend disbelief, and accept the bizarre as reality.

Watch for him. His name is Christopher Knight and it isn't a huge leap to say that soon his story will be everywhere - 20/20, 60 Minutes...Rolling Stone....and certainly a movie akin to Into the Wild. Dr. Phil, I am sure, will do his best to arrange a prison interview. Spoiler alert, Knight is caught (early in the book), psychoanalyzed up the wazoo and imprisoned.

Little did I know that between the lines would be a philosophical subtext with mini-courses on everyone from Socrates to Thomas Merton.  Of particular interest was the chapter detailing the sociological characteristics of a hermits.  They have been categorized into three groups.  "Protesters" are hermits whose primary reason for leaving is to escape what the world has become.  "Pilgrims", the largest sector of those defined as hermits, leave the world believing there is a connection between seclusion and spiritual actualization.  Most of us probably know a "pursuer".  They leave society in search of artistic freedom, scientific endeavors, or simply to find themselves.  

For me, the most interesting sections are those in which Finkel references worldly figures who throughout history have withdrawn, and despite their alonensss have made far reaching impacts.  During extensive interviews, Knight intimated that these people are not pure hermits.  If they were, the would not have written and shared manifestos.  You decide. At the very least ,or best depending on your vantage point, the ideas asserted in this book made me more comfortable with my discomfort with crowds. I'm not so abnormal after all!  

Thanks for stopping by.

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