Miles Olson has spent the last decade living about as close to nature as possible for a human being, off the grid, squatting in a cabin he built from salvaged materials, foraging and gardening for food. He thinks everyone could find more joy in life by getting in touch with their inner wild, though he stops well short of suggesting that everyone should follow his path.
Olson, who will give a talk entitled Unlearn, Rewild, at Vancouver Island University on Oct. 24, said, "I don't encourage anyone to live like that unless it is really your calling. Not everyone has that, but there are many ways to connect to the land.
"You can take a walk in nature, harvest wild plants for medicinal teas or different things depending on what you want to do," he said. "The important thing is to connect to the wildness within, the lifeforce that is all around us in nature."
Olson will talk about his own experiences and about the internal processes it led to.
"I grew up in the Comox Valley, just a pretty normal upbringing," he said, adding that his life as a teen revolved around school, TV and his skateboard and with a total lack of outdoor survival skills.
"I had a deep, youthful angst, a spirit of rebellion and I felt there must be more to life, something more pure, more true and filled with soul," he said.
At 17, he dropped out of school and spent the summer alone on Maurelle Island near Campbell River.
"I had read (Henry David) Thoreau's "Walden" and the philosophy and spirit really touched me." It wasn't an easy summer for a teen used to community life.
"There was no ferry, no one around. I lived by myself in the silence of nature brooding all around. It was a revelatory experience," he said. "There were a lot of big jolts that summer. A real psychological purging. At first I wondered what I was doing there but I broke through to a place of acceptance and bliss."
After that for a few years he lived in the Comox Valley, but away from communities, with or near others who shared his love of the ultra-simple life.
"For me it's about living my philosophy, being true to my inner self."
Olson's decade-long experiment in deep green simplicity gave him an education in traditional living skills, but also a fascinating perspective on the relationship between the human and nonhuman worlds, freedom, ecology, and the human mind.
He wrote a book entitled "Unlearn, Rewild: Earth skills, ideas and inspiration for the future primitive" and having that book published and the travelling and speaking engagements that followed, have meant a big shift.
"Before I was focussed full time on subsistence activities and now that's not so," he said. "But for me, this doesn't feel like a compromise of my ideals, it feels like an evolution.
"It's a fundamental quality of the natural world that it is dynamic, always changing, and I have submitted myself to that in my life."
Olson uses personal stories and experiences as a springboard into questions about humans and what it means for people to live separate from nature.
"There is this harmony, grace and flow in all of nature. .. and then there's us. For me it's positive, hopeful to be talking to people about these things and their responses," Olson said.
Olson's talk runs from 4-5:30 p.m. in VIU's Building 355, Room 211 (Lounge). There is no charge for admission. Everyone is welcome.
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