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FEBRUARY: The Forest 
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Post FEBRUARY: The Forest
The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga
Sylvain Tesson

FEBRUARY: The Forest



Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:26 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
I've already read, and enjoyed this book. Will re-read it now, something I rarely do


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Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:45 am
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
I just downloaded a copy on my Kindle.

Is that you on the quad?



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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
I've just downloaded this and feel as if I'd just committed and typed a blasphemy < impiously irreverent> I live in a small cabin in the mountains but with most of the amenities. The reason for the shift from super suburbia to the northern wilds was both an urgent need for perspective and a deep yearning for the spiritual being dwelling within to emerge and have hopefully an impact on a dying planet. This book is wonderful! No, not exactly Thoreau but courageous and uplifting and neccessary. Another time, another species perhaps or sadly the same one who has lost its bearings. I'm looking forward to e-reading and commenting on this mans solo journey back to himself.



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Robert Tulip
Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:46 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
I've downloaded the book onto my Kindle and read the first 30% or so. Looking forward to the conversation.



Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:46 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
still await my kindle download or my book on hold at the library, will begin asap


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Sat Oct 12, 2013 7:20 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
Yes that's me on my quad


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Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:15 am
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
Actually, its a very male thing, dont you think? All that vodka, and woodcutting and cigars. I came near to what he was seeking the other day . I had malaria and could do nothing much but sleep on the veranda. When I woke I watched the sunbirds in the hibiscus, and felt the cool breeze through the plants. Although I was really sick, I felt so alive and appreciative ofmy surroundings


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Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:52 am
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
heledd wrote:
Actually, its a very male thing, dont you think? All that vodka, and woodcutting and cigars. I came near to what he was seeking the other day . I had malaria and could do nothing much but sleep on the veranda. When I woke I watched the sunbirds in the hibiscus, and felt the cool breeze through the plants. Although I was really sick, I felt so alive and appreciative ofmy surroundings

I've had malaria a couple time, nasty business, so I think you are definitely looking on the bright side ... certainly helpful to one's recovery to watch sunbirds in the hibiscus! I agree, there is lots of vodka, woodcutting and cigars in this book, a male thing perhaps (I'm guessing there may be plenty of Russian women in rural areas that are handy with an axe and can knock back the vodka).

I've read about half the book and I'm a bit skeptical about Sylvain. Is he the real article? He does respond to his environment for sure, and he seems to value his isolation and the opportunity to reflect, but he's drunk or hungover half the time and, for a hermit, he sure spends a lot of time with other people, including some considerable effort to visit far away 'neighbours'.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me has been the way he blends ideas and quotes from literature with his life experiences at the cabin. I think he does this very well and it adds a lot to the book.



Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:58 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
Just got my copy. This is a hermit book. It is about finding the most extreme isolation possible. Lake Baikal is quite magical. It is 25 million years old and a mile deep. There are bunyips in it. Tesson takes a pile of books. Some that caught my eye are

The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard

On the Nature of Things by Lucretius

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu

Three books by Nietzsche

Nothing by Martin Heidegger

The World as Will and Representation by Schopenhauer


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Thu Oct 31, 2013 3:24 am
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
Tesson says that by retreating to solitary life as a hermit he can reduce his ecological footprint upon the planet. That claim can be questioned. For a start, Tesson's temporary hermitry is funded by his ability to sell his blog as a book. So he is not actually retreating from the economy.

But more importantly, this idea of withdrawal sets up a false logic, measuring what the individual creates and consumes to say that if you consume more than you create you are an evil exploiter, a part of a planetary plague. That has an attractiveness, rather like the Egyptian hall of the dead where the soul is weighed in a balance and must not be heavier than a feather to get to heaven. Similarly, if we emit more CO2 over our lives than we remove, on balance we have made the world warmer. But the problem is that this individualist ethic of the personal footprint is misconceived, distortive and unhelpful.

Typically for a wannabe hermit, this 'walk lightly' ethic involves a false exaggeration of the role of the individual considered in isolation. The reality, in the example of CO2 emissions, is that the only way we can remove CO2 from the air is through large scale industrial cooperation in capitalist technological enterprise, for example by building several million square kilometers of algae farms on the ocean. That is disturbing for the romantic isolationist, but the ethics of escape to a hermitage are really very bad, placing fantasy in the place of analysis. What we do as an individual makes not a flying fuck's worth of difference to the planet, any more than a fart in a tornado. Most people cannot escape like a hermit, and have to learn to cooperate with each other. The results of cooperative action entirely swamp anything done without cooperation.

This sort of hermit stuff comes up in aphorisms like 'tread gently for you walk on my dreams' or 'live simply so that all may simply live'. These sort of 'zero sum' emotional tugs are not grounded in rigorous economic analysis, and actually cause harm by giving people the false impression of being an ethically correct statement.

Simple living won't save the planet from rapacious destruction. We should be aiming to bring the poor up to the standards of the rich in a sustainable way, not pretending that rich people can buy indulgences through some crazy carbon credits earned in solitary contemplation on Lake Baikal.


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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
Robert: I certainly share your skepticism of Mr. Tesson's bona fides on the ecological footprint front. How many 'hermits of Lake Baikal' could be supported before they ran out of room and/or suitable hermit environments or started getting in each others way (thus not being hermits)? Maybe 10 or 20? That's a drop in the human population bucket. I would argue that in fact Tesson as hermit of Lake Baikal actually has a massive 'ecological footprint' in the sense that his adopted lifestyle requires a huge physical area (to be a proper hermit) so really he has 'consumed' this land, and he requires a suitable environment as well, like a big lake with fish. How many 'hermits' could live on Lake Baikal and fish without permanently damaging the fish stock? From what I can see he doesn't deal with this issue, likely because the answers would not square with his romantic, hermit lifestyle model or his apparent ecological footprint objective.



Last edited by giselle on Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:23 pm
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Post Re: FEBRUARY: The Forest
I really liked his diary entry for 18 February, where Sylvain says life in the woods allows us to pay our debts. While that is not literally true, since as Giselle has pointed out a hermit has a big ecological footprint, there is a sense in which a retreat into nature enables a recharging of the spiritual batteries, a reflection upon bigger questions. So there is the potential that contemplation of the consolations of the forest can help us to understand what industrial civilization must do to become more sustainable.

Tesson quotes Chatwin, quoting Junger, quoting Stendahl, on the connection between pleasure and danger in civilization, and says this oscillation in the Russian winter enables bold swinging between worldviews. So I don't think we should be too hard on Tesson for dreaming of life trod with a lighter tread, like Yeats among the wild swans at Coole.

On 22 Feb he expands on his ecological musing, imagining his cabin as a laboratory for longing about freedom, silence and solitude. This leads to a discussion about ecological de-growth, a decelerated simpler life that economic crisis could force upon us. I disagree with this prognosis, but it is one of the possible worlds that a solitary musing can swing between.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:22 pm
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