When You Build in Solitude
That Which Will Outlast You
No man is an island, wrote John Donne, in what’s now a big, fat cliché. Yet, there’s David Glasheen, living alone on a island for 23 years. And Jadav Payeng, who planted a whole forest on his own. Or Justo Gallego, who built a cathedral by hand.
Then, there’s a man who’s surely envious of the solitude all three find comfort on. Accused of bilking people of their money, his victims found a way of placing his face all over the world, as a casualty of various acts of terrorism, even as he wasn’t near any of them.
Undue exposure as an act of revenge is certainly a modern phenomenon, with social media, and news report manipulation, replacing the shame of standing naked in the public square of Donne‘s times. But each man plays an unwitting, and extreme, role in contemporary society’s drama.
While Glasheen has just about enough of all of us, Payeng has dedicated his life to leaving us a legacy. As Gallego was erecting his monument to devotion, others devised a devilish prank as the only alternative to denounce and get something back out of a con man.
TO WALK OUT OF IT ALL
Not that many would’ve noticed, or cared about it, but when the stock market crashed, on October of 1987, the world lost a few millionaires. Most got quickly back in the saddle, as financiers are won to do. Australian businessman Glasheen took the hint to drop out, and instead, moved to a desert island.
But his is no epic tale, all heart-warming quotes of inspiration and non-conformism. For starters, like most hermits, he’s not very fond of the likes of us. Which is a feeling that comes in handy if (more)
* Off the Grid
* Hot Water
* Going Under
you’re a self-appointed custodian of a 40-hectare speck in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.
While Glasheen has been keeping Restoration Island as pristine as possible, he faces eviction by the Australian government: apparently, he was supposed to build a resort there, not to keep it wild. Thus, you can’t blame the guy for still dabbling on the stock market.
TO PLANT A FOREST ON YOUR OWN
A different self-appointment was what Indian Mishing tribe Payeng gave himself, in 1979. 1,360 acres and thousands of trees later, the Molai Forest shelters tigers, rhinos, and millions of birds, besides a herd of elephants that pays annual visits to it. Not bad for a lifetime work.
Naturally he became an international celebrity, although one of the few, if not the only one, who’s still lives in hut inside the green treasure he created. He’s received awards and accolades, and not a small amount of threats from local land developers.
But considering the mortal danger environmentalist face in Asia and Latin America these days, Payeng may be actually lucky to be alive and kicking and helping to better the world we all share. It’s just such a good story to put the kids to sleep. Or to emulate.
TO BUILD A CATHEDRAL BY HAND
Spaniard Gallego started building his lifelong dream in 1963 and up to today, over 90 years old, he’s still at it. Without any formal education or training in construction, let alone architecture, he’s built a cathedral out of trash that now stands 131 feet tall.
It’s stunningly beautiful too, which is no small feat to say of anyone born in the land of the great Gaudi. As many famous cathedrals around the world, it still unfinished and bound to remain that way, given Gallego‘s advanced age. No matter; it’s impressive all the same.
He never got the proper construction permits to build it either, which hasn’t been an issue to the Spanish government so far. But it may be, if he’s not around, and locals don’t rally around it. There’s always the chance of some hot shot to nix it before anybody notices it. Then again, Gallego is a monk, so shouldn’t we expect some miracle or something?
TO AVENGE A DISHONEST DEED
The only character in this post not to have a name is the one whose face most people around the world may be familiar with. He’s Mexican and you may have seen him among victims of the EgyptAir crash last month, the terror attack at the Istanbul airport, the massacre at the Orlando night club, and many others.
The extremely well concocted prank is the work of a group of people who claimed he stole money from them. And felt left out by Mexico’s judicial system. Still, for all we know, the no-name man has denied any wrong doing, which has clearly proven to be one of his greatest mistakes.
Now, no one should give themselves the power of judge and executioner, trying to right some wrong committed against them by a clever administration of old fashioned karma. But it must have felt good to them. And this man could surely find a better use for his time on earth.