I assume Alexander Selkirk kept the lambs in some kind of fold, and that the point was that even in that confined space he did not have to struggle too much to get at one of them and kill it, because they were handicapped so to speak - because he had broken their legs. Gruesome in one manner, if you can forget our own slaughter-houses for a moment. But on the other hand understandable, if you get a tropical fever and barely can get up, and you have dehydrated and shit all over the dried leaves that make out your bed.
There is a strange fascination and yet revulsion with this little bit of story, but at the heart of it is a lesson, about what life is if you take away any kind of help from the outside.
There's the story, then. Which makes me feel revolted and grateful at the same time. I guess I should remember the gratefulness the most.
Alexander Selkirk (d. 1721) wanted badly to get away and he wanted to get rich. He didn't want to die for nothing. Or at least die risking to achieve what he felt was his highest dream.
Not as gift-wrapped as Columbus' dream, I might reiterate, but nevertheless the most precious dream he had. That man of 200 years past.
But how many like him are still here today.
Again, I'm not trying to equate my own petty considerations about how to keep certain other people at arm's length in my life to the voluntary or involuntary complete and utter exile.
But there is an interesting door, in both situations, to one major theme - the quality of being alone, of not being interfered with, of being sheltered from whatever ills we ascribe to other people and society at large.
Obviously many decry 'loneliness' or 'isolationist tendencies' or 'aloofness' etc. etc. And they should. Alone-ness or isolation - wholly or partially - voluntary or involuntary is not an end in itself. Or 'good' Just Because.
Obviously it isn't. Whether Selkirk chose his island or not. Whether we chose how much or how little our own 'islands' - places of solitude - should fill our lives.
It is always a scale and it is always set in a context - whether or not solitude is 'good' or 'bad'. How much 'good'? How much 'bad'? Do we even call it "solitude"? What if we called it ... "loneliness?" in Alexander's case.
Or in my case: "poor social skills" or "being introvert"?
It's all a bit messy, as usual.
But something shines through. Something like a very important theme, not just for this talk, but for life in general. And that is how I want it.
Why would you want to make peace with a "complete jerk", for example - if that IS your heart-felt belief about what that this person is all about?
That kind of thinking goes on in all of us all the time. I do it each day to some extent although I try very much to restrain myself and not fall back to my earlier life behavior which was much more temperamental, much an 800-year old king.
I'm not going to drive myself over a cliff in this life-time by fostering mostly antagonistic relations to other people. But I might still do so with some people, because I still have it in me.
And I have to decide if that is good enough.