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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A year in wilderness solitude Kull, Frank R. (Bob)


This dissertation is part of an ongoing exploration of who I am and what it means to be alive. It is an account of one man who lives alone for a year in the wilderness and reflects on his experience. A research question - What are the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual effects of deep wilderness solitude? - motivates and shapes the work. I develop an innovative methodology of vigilant mindfulness combined with radically honest journal keeping and narrative writing to examine and document my own lived experience in solitude. I extend interdisciplinarity and integrate spiritual practice with academic study, and I share my work with the non-academic community. During the year in solitude I discovered unexpected answers of the heart that emerged gradually through daily living. The more deeply I trusted the process of living and accepted the world and myself as we actually are, the more joy, peace, and wonder I experienced. I believe humans often act in ecologically destructive ways because we are experientially alienated from the natural systems that sustain us. Solitude can catalyze transformations in consciousness that might lead to more sustainable behaviour. Broadly, a thesis is an invitation to reflect on something from a particular point of view. I use personal narrative to evoke an experience of wilderness solitude and to invite the reader to reflect on how our culture experiences the non-human world, on how we experience ourselves and each other, and on the relationship between direct experience, intuition, insight, and conceptual knowledge. Rather than write only about solitude, I use my edited daily journal to speak directly to the reader from solitude. Reflective essays frame the journal entries, explore various themes relevant to my lived experience, and place my research in a cultural and academic context. Two DVDs contain a movie recorded in the wilderness and a video recording of a public slideshow in which I describe my year in solitude. The recordings bring visual and auditory layers to the dissertation, and the post slideshow discussion adds an interactive element.

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