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Why I Wrote Forest Life | Provoketive Magazine
17 Aug 2012

The Author

Shane Crash is the up and coming author of the fiction work, Forest Life, a powerful narrative of one man’s struggle to sustain the will to live. (Civitas Press 2012) Shane is well known for being a radical non-violent social activist. He spends much of his time traveling the country and running Pacifist Army.

Shane speaks frequently on non-violence and social responsibility and is a fan of Marvel Comics. He blogs at http://www.shanecrash.com


Why I Wrote Forest Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about my reasons for writing Forest Life. This is appropriate as I will soon release it to the world. I was up last night considering the metamorphosis that my life has undergone since I began writing the book. The idea for the book began while I was living alone in a cabin, on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee. My brain had begun to crack so I embarked on an existential exile into the woods. My heart was broken and I needed to find a way to sustain the will to continue living.

Even after all this time, I still don’t know how to live. There are moments here and there when I understand some of the things that I need to live. I need good friendship. I need to write and I need quiet emptiness. Unfortunately, I still spend too much time thinking about things that make my brain bleed. Sometimes I just think so much that my brain will shut itself down in a futile attempt at self-preservation. I haven’t been able to transcend my frustration and anger for society and its inability to match up with my ideals. My ideals being peaceful coexistence and productive progress. Some people reconcile this sadness by telling themselves that God’s gonna come back and fix things up real nice. I want to believe nice things like restorative theology, but I just can’t. I am understanding of those who subscribe to comforting narratives. I’d rather not see the world as cruel and chaotic, but I digress. Hence, my attempts to understand how I should live in a world that doesn’t make sense.

Although Forest Life is almost entirely fictional, the frustration and struggle of the lead character often mirrors my own irreconcilable sadness and confusion. Existence is a strange thing. It was on a cabin porch in the Tennessee dusk, nearly three years when I realized that my experience was a universal dilemma for conscious freethinkers. And so as the sky grew salty and the winds picked up, the rain began to fall through a halo sunrise and I found my story – the story of Emmett.

Once more I’ve removed myself from the debilitating mess that we call society. I’m currently working on a new manuscript in a farmhouse, in the woods of the great Midwest. The grass is dead brown and the earth is rough. Wildlife roams freely, uninhibited by humans. I’ve spent the last couple mornings fishing alone off a pond in the hills of the Daniel Boone forest. I much prefer the quiet still of the wild. In the wild I’m free to create and sigh and smirk without interruption. There’s no one around to keep score and I find myself less inclined to drink, attempting to alleviate the sorrow I feel in my observation. It’s nice to know that I’ve made some progress since my Forest Life journey began over three years ago.

When I was alone in that cabin in the forgotten town, I had several spiritual experiences. I began to understand myself. I confronted my mistakes. I lamented several self-inflicted tragedies. I struggled to forgive myself and I struggled to accept the memories that I cannot change. Even now, I’m still working these things out. I’m still angry at myself for lying compulsively and inflicting upon myself, the very suffering that compelled me to lie. I’m still angry at myself for letting the loss of loved ones contribute to my future suffering, a suffering that would have been deterred if not for my own fear. Naturally, the character in Forest Life is often struggling with self-deprecation and regret. Alas! There’s so much to work through and so much forgive. There’s a whole lifetime of paradox to rationalize and stories to tell. This is one of the themes in Forest Life. How do we find a purpose that death does not destroy? In a sense, writing Forest Life was an attempt at a solution to this very problem. My purpose is to write about the ruins of my memory and to give meaning to the experience.

When I started writing Forest Life, I was suicidal and drunk because I had lost someone I love to a tragedy. Afterward, my question was this: why love when death and suffering are inevitable? I won’t reveal my solution to this problem, but I do present it in the pages of the book. These are only a few of the issues I grapple with in the story and I hope that you’ll read the story and consciously address your own uncertainty and fear.

Thanks everyone. You can pre-order the book here. I’ve worked hard on this story and it would mean the world to me if you picked it up.

  1. I am curious as to the substance of your metamorphosis, for it appears that what moved you to isolation in the wilds and was the source for your book is unchanged, and as you have returned to isolation, it seems appropriate to ask what is the nature of the transformation?

    The pull of my soul has always been strongest toward isolation, or the term today of solitude or stretched to contemplative. In fact, usually much effort is needed to engage in simple conversations with friends. More later, gotta run.

  2. Gerard,
    While I do still require the quiet contemplative periods that I can only find in the wild, my life and worldview have changed dramatically. The biggest difference being my ability to live without considering suicide. Initially, I struggled to sustain the will to continue living, fortunately I’ve learned to be content and productive as time has passed. So many positive things have come from my transformation, a more positive worldview, contentment, peace of mind, etc. I was quite despondent when I first relocated to the cabin in Paris.

    • Thank you for your honest and straight-forward reply. I was suicidal for a time, which was probably just a natural progression of my excessive pondering and heavy into the Existentialists with an Irish Catholic foundation. Confusing.

      Ecclesiates was my favorite book…after Catcher In The Rye.

      I could never allow myself to honor the strong pull to solitude; it remained a somewhat cowardly isolation, a retreat from life and not where life gained insight and meaning. It was seen as a deficiency, a failing. What did not help was that my family of origin and my whole extended family were extroverts and very good at it. I was literally painfully shy.

      Your piece helped move me a bit further along to accepting my propensity for solitude; it has been a long struggle.

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