247. The Beauty of Seeking

Got another (big) gig today and washed a lot of clothes and diapers, but that’s not what was foremost on my mind. Or rather it was not that which was most important in my mind.

You see, one question I have to answer in my talk is whether or not, or how much, Defoe’s book was inspired by Alexander Selkirk. Historians disagree, of course.

I think I have a novel answer, sort of: I think Defoe was a little inspired, and must’ve heard of Selkirk. However, he was also inspired by a lot of other sources of that age’s travel literature esp.

But why is Selkirk so often popping up in documentaries and writings about ‘the real Robinson’? Why have they renamed the island where he was exiled as “Robinson Crusoe Island”? (Aside from the temptation to cash in on tourists, of course … )

Why does Google show me almost only results about Alexander Selkirk when I search for “the real Robinson Crusoe”?

I think it’s because the thought that there was a real person who experienced this became so alluring, due to the popularity of the book – that we just had to find him. Even if Selkirk is only part of the inspiration. Even if Robinson was a complex of many different inspirations.

But just like there is an archetypal appeal in Robinson Crusoe’s trials and tribulations on his lonely island, there is an urge in us – just as deep – to search for the ‘real’, the single Cause, the Explanation.

Another reason for me doing these talks, I guess …

But is it a ‘bad’ urge? To seek the ‘real’? The ‘true’? Etc. … even though the real world so often turns out to be marvelously more complex?

I think it can be in so many situations – just open the news.

But … there is also another side to this. There is something beautiful in wanting to seek the real, the truth about a story or an event.

Perhaps that urge is not mine alone. To seek the ‘true’, the ‘real’, the ‘first cause’.

It definitely is not.

And yes, it can be perverted and warped, esp. among closed-minded fanatics of all sorts, with or without gods.

But in this case … it feels right.

Even if the truth turns out to be that the book of Robinson Crusoe shaped the story of Alex Selkirk and not the other way around.