Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story here about modern day hermits. It seems they live among us everywhere. The hermit lifestyle is no longer only limited to monks and ascetics living in caves, growing foot-long beards and eating nothing but berries. Most of them don’t even flagellate themselves, or at least not that they admit to in public. But instead, they live their lives within the constraints of a modern world, working at jobs, blogging, making YouTube videos. But those living among the ‘greater hermit community’, also spend as much of their lives as possible dedicated to simplicity, solitude, quiet, and contemplation. Their world then is not like ours, where we arm ourselves every morning for the onslaught of bad news and frightening global developments. They say they are at peace, and many of us are now turning to them for advice on how to find it.
I often joke about hibernating in the winter. I hate the cold and if it wasn’t for the good sense of my protecting spouse, I wouldn’t leave the house and the comfort of my woolen blankets until the Spring thaw. Living on a northern island as I do now, I am also tempted to read as little news as I can get away with and separate myself from the meteorological tempests raging outside my door. I always thought these impulses meant I was running away, perhaps even protecting myself from a depression which seems to take the place of a hiding sun. I am quick to criticize myself and I assumed this natural instinct of mine was worthy of criticism.
But enter the hermits. Their lives, though separate, seem full – full of spirit, full of depth, full of love and serenity. And they carry all that not only through their own harsh Winters, but also their joyous Springs and playful Summers. I am not suggesting that all of us take up this lifestyle. The world needs activists. The world needs people to march outside their doors every day, no matter what, to keep their communities intact and progress their societies. But the pandemic is also showing me that the world also needs hermits, and those of us who can’t keep our mouths shut long enough to live lives of quiet solitude, should take some time to study the lessons they model.