This weekend the Wall Street Journal wrote a review of the book The Stranger in the Woods, the tale of one Christopher Knight who went off into the Maine woods in 1986, avoiding human contact for thirty years.
In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
My post this morning isn’t about the book per se, but peripherally, asking if you could live alone, without human contact for decades?
I know I couldn’t, not at all. I’m an incredibly social being, and not social in the negative must-party sense, but social, like elephants, that I thrive on interaction and both need and want it.
Sure, there are days when it’s great to have the house alone, or even a few hours of alone time (I think I felt that way more when the kids were little and I was being pulled in so many directions at once) but my personality is enhanced with human interaction and I think I’d die without any. I mean, they say that prisoners in solitary confinement go stark-raving mad, so I wonder what about Christopher Knight made it optimal for him to avoid humans?
I ordered the book this morning but before I read it I’ll pose these questions to you all on this miserably rainy day:
- Could YOU avoid all human contact?
- Would you even want to?
- How long?
- Thirty years?
- Would it depend on where you were holed up? A tropical island versus the backwoods of Maine?
Happy Monday. And PS, the Audi service guy has not called me yet this morning, despite my message asking him to call me first thing today. That Acura is looking bettter and better!