Into the Wild

The desert is the environment of revelation, genetically and physiologically alien, sensorily austere, esthetically abstract, historically inimical…. Its forms are bold and suggestive. The mind is beset by light and space, the kinesthetic novelty of aridity, high temperature, and wind. The desert sky is encircling, majestic, terrible. In other habitats, the rim of sky above the horizontal is broken or obscured; here, together with the overhead portion, it is infinitely vaster than that of rolling countryside and forest lands… In an unobstructed sky the clouds seem more massive, sometimes grandly reflecting the earth’s curvature on their concave undersides. The angularity of desert landforms imparts a monumental architecture to the clouds as well as to the land…. To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pil­grims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to es­cape but to find reality.

Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape: A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature

It is true that many creative people fail to make mature per­sonal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early sepa­ration or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative per­son toward developing aspects of his personality which can find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological…

[A]voidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioural disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.

Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self

Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for ei­ther melancholy or exultation.

Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind


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