Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why did Joseph Rock lead such a solitary life?

It's often said that Joseph Rock was an eccentric. He was an irascible man who lived alone in the wilds of China. He never married and seemed to have few real friends. I've sometimes wondered what made him choose that kind of life - especially given he was an accomplished botanist who could have led a life of the well-regarded expert in the US. Was he a repressed homosexual or a tortured soul who never recovered from his strict Catholic upbringing? I don't think so.
Perhaps this musing from his diaries may explain what really motivated him:

3 comments:

Tim said...

An interesting question, Michael. I do think sometimes people tend to over-think imponderables such as this one. There seems to be a feeling that there must be some sort of secret reason or reasoning behind simple points of fact. Maybe Rock was simply someone with a solitary inclination, feeling more relaxed when in his own company or out of his natural cultural habitat? Similarly, you could ask any of us who have been captivated by this part of the world why we are so interested in it and why we are drawn to visit and travel there, and I suspect we'd each find it hard to pin-point a single reason that made our interest crystal clear even to ourselves. Everyone is made up of multiple interests and inclinations, sometimes all of these factors coalesce into a sustained fascination with a place, a topic, a person - or even all three combined, like you, like me, and probably like Joseph Rock too!

Tim said...

Oops - I meant his 'native cultural habitat'

Michael Woodhead said...

I agree Tim - I think some people read too much into this. Those suggestions about his motivations weren't mine but have been made on a few other prominent websites that shall remain nameless. But people keep asking me what motivated Rock and what made him tick so I have to try make a guess! I think his simple statement here says a lot.