Middle Living – Robinson Crusoe's Dad

10/08/2013 14:44

Instincts can arrive without warning, and we might naturally seek and receive advice about them. We're human after all, sometimes uncertain yet benefitting from a stirred mixture of our own experience and that of the people we're linked with. "The middle state  the upper station of low life  is the best state in the world; the most suited to human happiness," proclaimed the wise tone of Robinson Crusoe's father  a voice of plodding success and reverent of comfortable anonymity  while urging his son not to venture out to sea... into strong perceptions of peril, penury and dissipation. But is the middle of life really as good as it gets? I'm on a journey to find out.


Below are these fairly unexpected passages from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, think them over. In suppressing the travel instinct so rationally, is Robinson's gouty father right about "a life of ease" being our universal panacea? Or do these entreaties amount to little more than a well-tailored life mask for the risk-averse? For me this initial section is the most memorable of the whole tale  conveying how magnetic barbarian instincts survive in the rifts of sober sensibilities. The three pages describe Robinson's seminal encounter with his father; read them through and we'll return to the theme later. In the meantime if you haven't read Robinson Crusoe then after sampling this taster I recommend doing so. More than a mere story of survival, the book is an exploration of loyalty and risk, a theological struggle, a bright trumpet of finding your own way through life for better or worse, and not least a forager's cheap living paradigm to rival Thoreau's Walden... one that may challenge a wealth of over-cocktailed experience.





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