This is a fascinating read. It isn’t as “unexpected” to me as the quote below suggests it might be. It might seem obvious that “we gain our sense of self from our interaction with other people” but I don’t think it’s intuitive that isolation reduces a sense of self rather than causing introspection. People who fear solitude fear disappearing. And conversely people who crave solitude must want to disappear.
Neil Ansell: My life as a hermit | Environment | The Observer: “What I found was not what you might expect. You might think that such protracted solitude would lead to introspection, to self-examination, to a growing self-awareness. But not for me. What happened to me was that I began to forget myself, my focus shifted almost entirely outwards to the natural world outside my window. It was as if we gain our sense of self from our interaction with other people; from the reflection of ourselves we see in the eyes of another. Alone, there was no need for identity, for self-definition.
The process was a gradual one. During my years in the hills I kept a journal. For the first year it is a conventional diary; places I had gone, things I had done. By the second year it is little more than a nature journal; what birds I had seen that day, perhaps some notes on the weather. By the third year it is no more than an almanac, marking the turn of the seasons by the comings and goings of migrant birds and their nesting dates, interspersed by the occasional detailed depiction of a moment, perhaps the flight of a single bird. I am an absence, a void, I have disappeared from my own story.”
Buy the book, Deep Country, here .