A Health & Beyond Book Review

Robert Kull's Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes -- a Year Alone in the Patagonia Wilderness

By Chet Day

A deep part of me yearns for quiet and solitude.

Always has.

Even when I was a boy.

And it's more intense now that I'm in my early 60's.

During my rare periods of quiet and solitude, I'm alone in our house with our three dogs quietly amusing themselves in the back yard while I meditate in a corner of our bedroom.

Robert Kull, author of Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes, approaches solitude a bit differently.

When he's ready to get away from the mad frenzy of daily life, he journeys alone into the forests of Canada… or travels by himself to spend an entire year on a remote and totally isolated island off the coast of Chile.

Solitude is Kull's 330 page narrative of the remarkable year he spent alone on that isolated island, and it's one of the best accounts I've ever read of an individual's quest for personal growth, inner peace, and enlightenment.

As I've learned the hard way during my own thirty year search for the same goals, such quests are probably two-thirds doomed because inner peace and enlightenment have to be found in the here and now.

The harder you look for them and the further away you go to find them, the more elusive they become.

At least that's been my experience.

With that personal comment in mind, I nonetheless admire the grit, self-reliance, and genuine humanity of Kull who has repeatedly risked his life seeking the answers to the big questions.

Or perhaps it's more appropriate to say seeking union with what is.

In any event, Kull's close-to-the-bone writing in Solitude vividly describes lovely as well as harrowing times…

... from moving descriptions of the natural beauty of his surroundings...

... to insights and observations about the ever-shifting but always fascinating relationship with the cat that shares his existence on the island...

... to a jaw-rocking rendition of how the author pulled his own abscessed tooth one day...

... this book kept me reading night after night for several weeks.

I say night after night because Solitude has a depth and substance to it that requires slow and careful reading.

Yes, Kull's vivid story telling ability is more than powerful enough to make the reader feel as if he's spending the year on the island with the author, but this is not a typical travelogue or adventure story.

Not by a long shot.

Woven within the day-to-day account of building a small cabin and then living on an island where the wind howls for weeks at a time, the snow flies, and the boat motor does and doesn't work, Kull shares the joys of solitude as well as the soul-wrenching pain of having to confront oneself away from the noise and distractions of modern civilization that keep most of us shielded from what we're really thinking, what we're really doing, what type of person we're really being.

Solitude is not for the faint of heart. It's not an easy read because much of it is philosophical and so painfully personal it's sometimes almost a sliver under a fingernail.

But for those seeking better understanding of themselves as well as of what it means to be fully human, Robert Kull's book is a must read, and I recommend it highly.

Click here to visit Robert Kull's website, where you can watch a slide show of his year on the island.

Click here to order Solitude from the publisher's website.

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