Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Living as a castaway – LylesBrother

Below is a follow-up email I sent to the young man for whom I made this video after he wrote to me indicating an interest in following some of my advice and asking about dealing with anxiety. He also asked for my recommendation regarding reading materials:


Hi friend,

Your plan sounds great and I admire your forward thinking attitude. I expect your anxiety will begin to diminish as you exercise your will and resolve to get on with living. It’s rather like someone training for a marathon who is not used to physical exercise. At first he won’t be able to run or perhaps walk more than a mile without serious pain or fatigue and he might be tempted to think that running a full 26 mile marathon is impossible. However, with regular practice and determination his body will slowly transform into that of an athlete and he will likely soon be doing things he previously could not have imagined. I think that the same is true with anxiety which may improve through training your mind to take on and deal with (sometimes failing and sometime succeeding) the fears which cause you to worry. I recommend simply facing your fears and pushing through. The worst that is likely to happen is you might feel some shame or embarrassment, though I want you to think of these feelings as similar to the “burn” and athlete feels in his muscles as he trains. It’s painful but a sign of getting fit. I can’t tell you enough how the very best things that are going to come in life will only come at the price of some pain, and the best pain of all (in the long term) is when your pride, ego and inflated sense of self-worth (we all start out that way even if we don’t know it at the time) are burned away through real experience in living, which has the very desirable effect of revealing our human frailty and weakness. This might sound like a bad thing though it is not. Learning to get over ourselves is one of the hardest things any human can do and most run away in fear at the simple thought of exposing their weaknesses to the world. If you train yourself now to not be afraid to do this then you will discover astonishing things about yourself in the years to come, and your anxiety will likely diminish as your sense of humor and humility grow and bring you great comfort. It’s like being broken to become fixed. A hard thing to imagine let along do though if you can let yourself be exposed to more of the raw, abrasive forces of life then you will one day find the superfluous and gaudy decorative junk of ego to be worn away, perhaps to reveal a smooth and stream-lined man of character and courage. These observations bring me now to your wonderful question of reading material.

As you have little in the way of funds to purchase books and live far from any libraries and are without a car I would like to suggest you continue using your computer and Internet connection as your portal to the world of great writing. Though you have much to choose from I have two titles to suggest, both of which I read when I was your age and each of which impacted me greatly in helping me to muster courage to step boldly onto the field of life. Here are the books and my reasons for suggesting them:

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

This book is simply great literature which I hope will help you to gain an appreciation for the beauty of the written word and the power of great storytelling. The tale is also one which I think might help you along as you endeavor towards independence. You might be able to find an on-line copy or PDF to download and read though I strongly recommend finding a way to get to your library to borrow a copy or better yet purchasing a cheap used book at a second hand store. This is a book which has remained on the dresser by my table for the last 30 years and which will be there when I die. If you like The Grapes of Wrath then I recommend getting your hands on anything you can which was written by Steinbeck. Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday (in that order) are two more of my favorites.

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

This is the book that changed everything for me. A copy was placed in my hands by a thoughtful high school teacher when I was just 16 and my life has never been the same. Written in the mid 19th century by a hermetic philosopher of the New England woods the book is weighty with secular, practical ideas for better living and filled with challenging vocabulary to expand your mind and improve your writing and speaking skills. I recommend this book for two reasons: first to help you see one very real and doable way out of your current dilemma. This is the path I took which has worked out so well for me. A life of steadfast independence and individualism borne of a resolve to forge a living of honest labor, inquiry and self critique. I can’t recommend the book enough. If I was given the chance to keep and read just one title for the rest of my life this is the book I would choose. Like The Grapes of Wrath I have carried and kept a tattered copy of Walden with me since the first copy I received those many years back. You’ll need a dictionary for this book which is written in the flowing, melodic and rich language of an earlier time in American history. Don’t let a single word you don’t understand pass you by without looking it up and committing it’s meaning and sound to memory. If you do this and are able to gain the message and meaning of Thoreau’s words then you will be well rewarded for the rest of your life. Money, fortune, fame and ego and come and go and you will remain a strong man of independent character to the end of your days. Fortunately, this book is easily accessible on-line and I have found a nice link (below) where you can read it. But like The Grapes of Wrath I strongly recommend getting a copy of your own. Here’s the link: http://thoreau.eserver.org/walden00.html

I hope that this information is a helpful start to you. Please write whenever you like to let me know how things are going or if you have any questions. Have a wonderful day, friend.


Kurt 🙂


LylesBrotherWelcome to the LylesBrother blog. My name is Kurt Bell and I am delighted that you have taken some time to share a little of life with me. I’m available on Facebook and Google+ if you have questions or just want to chat and say hi. I can also be found at the JVLOG forum with other Japan-related content creators. All links are listed below. I look forward to meeting you on-line. Have a great day!

The Path of WildnessThe Path of Wildness is easy to find
The course of a stream
Leaves blown in the wind
A beast’s track through the brush
And the direction of our first inclination

The Path of Wildness is an answer and response to a prescribed way of life which may leave some individuals with a sense that their living is little more than a series of pre-determined, step-like episodes between birth and death. The stages of living between these events: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood and senior are themselves natural and in accord with the needs of the species and most individuals. Many find their satisfaction in living this course and to these individuals I have little or nothing to say. Others though long for something more; something innate, genetic and seemingly calling. Adventure and change can give a degree of satisfaction and relief yet even these may seem too tame. To those who feel drawn to something beyond the entertainment and stimulation of senses I offer a walk along The Path of Wildness. Don’t bother penciling the event in your schedule, preparing a pack with goodies and supplies or even inviting a friend along, for this experience is along the course of your first inclination and you must surely always go alone.

The Path of Wildness Resources


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One comment on “Living as a castaway – LylesBrother

  1. zentaurus21
    January 8, 2014

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