A Quiet Place

Hermits have long gone out of fashion, which is rather a shame. At one time I think I might have viewed it as a good career choice. It had its perks; accommodation was provided, usually in the form of a rude hut (that’s rude as in rudimentary, of course, not because there were obscene drawings on the walls. Although heaven knows what the hut’s occupant might have been driven to in the long winter months…) or a romantically ruined building, food was generally provided, although I suspect that within the job description for a hermit it would have been set out that nourishment came in the form of gruel and acorns rather than an a la carte menu, and people generally left you alone to get on with hermitty things. The downside, though, was what those hermitty things consisted of. There would have been long hours of prayer and contemplation, and I think even if the weather was crap, the hermit would be expected to be out in it praying and contemplating – probably contemplating a hot meal, a hot bath and a warm bed. The estate’s owners and guests would expect to view you hermitting, which you’d have to put up with whenever that might occur – probably every time you felt least like hermitting. The rude hut probably leaked and had an earth floor and nowhere to light a fire and you’d probably have to dig a hole in the woods every time you needed a crap and if the estate servants were late bringing the gruel or even forgot about it altogether, I doubt you’d be welcome going up to the Big House to complain.

I’ve no idea whether the terms and conditions of employment were ever open to negotiation, but if the position still existed today, I’m sure they would be. Hopefully, the profession would have been unionised and today’s hermit could look forward to comfortable lodgings with regular meals, well out of the way of the noise and hubbub of society.

But I didn’t intend to talk about hermits, it just kind of happened. We’ve finally got some decent weather here, and yesterday I was walking through a village in the sunshine and idly thinking there are two situations in which I reckon I could renounce the world. One is in somewhere like Kathmandu in the Buddhist temples there. I’ve always had such a profound feeling of peace and stillness in these places. Buddhism is the only set of beliefs I’ve ever really been attracted to, although more as a philosophy of life than as a religion. I can’t do religion. The world is beautiful and amazing enough without throwing imaginary beings into the mix. But Buddhism is more about being a better person and looking after the world and everyone and everything in it. I could melt into that environment without too much difficulty. At least for a while.

The other situation, especially on an English summer’s afternoon in the countryside, is to retreat to somewhere remote and live a simple life away from the world as much as is practical. I’ve probably told you that before. That’s where the hermit thoughts came in.

But sadly, as already mentioned, hermits aren’t a thing anymore. Not in this country, at least. There are openings available in various other countries, but I don’t think I’m ready to explore those options. Perhaps I’ll just go for another walk.

49 thoughts on “A Quiet Place

  1. Perhaps hermit-ing could be a sort of jail alternative program for minor offensives, like not putting your shopping cart away and leaving it rolling around in the parking lot banging into cars. Offenders would be required to pass a series of philosophy classes and would be issued a cookbook “One Thousand & One Ways to Make Gruel,” I’m afraid the acorns would have to be stricken from their diet, there’s a pretty powerful squirrel lobby in this country.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The only drawback to that idea is there would then be so many hermits they’d be massed in huge groups. And that rather takes away the point of hermitting.

      There’s only one way to cook gruel. Whatever the ingredients they are slowly rendered down to a thin paste over several hours before consumption. That’s it.

      And I suppose they wouldn’t really miss the acorns. I’m sure something else could be substituted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There were some tribes in California that largely subsisted on acorns but otherwise I don’t think they’d be missed, takes a fair amount of preparation to make them edible to humans. Would there be a Wi-Fi hotspot in your scheme? So the hermits could at least blog?

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      2. The Buddhist way of life can be practiced anywhere by anyone , not just by Buddhists in their monasteries or in Buddhist communities. So you could definitely give it’s disciplined
        and detached lifestyle a try! Not quite a hermits life though. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I think the monks too have moved with the times, much more relaxed from Lobsang Rampa days! Though there are the ones from the more austere sects, overall, they are definitely less hermit like! Enjoyed reading your post.😊

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I laughed at your mention of religion as a belief in imaginary beings. I suppose you don’t believe in Santa Claus, either. Ah, me.

    But that’s only a side note. My first thought when I read ‘hermitage’ was of Thomas Merton, who happened to spend a good bit of his life exploring Buddhist thought in a Christian context, and who did spend some time as a hermit, both in this country and in Thailand. Then, I thought of Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, known as The Hermitage, and that led to the website of another Hermitage: the elegant Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. You can bet that one’s not gruel and sackcloth!

    The other thing that crossed my mind is that a ‘hermit’s’ lifestyle can take many forms. If isolation and simplicity are its hallmarks, my life has some of those qualities. With no connection to social media, no television, and no obsessive consumption of anything (well, except maybe of time to go photographing) my life headed in that direction some time ago. Funny thing is, I don’t feel particularly deprived!

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    1. I’ve not come across Andrew Jackson (at least, not that one), but I have read a bit about Thomas Merton and read some other writers on links between Buddhism and Christianity, although to my mind the only connections there come in the New Testament emphasis on love rather than the Hell and Damnation of the Old Testament.

      Simplicity is certainly one of the elements of a hermit lifestyle but in day to day life isolation is very difficult and I prefer to think of it as stepping back from the crowd. I naturally avoid crowds for all sorts of reasons and certainly think it helps my peace of mind. But impressed you have no TV and no social media other than blogging (I think it does fall into that category). We have a TV, although we don’t watch it much, but I find it difficult to avoid social media completely – I get a lot of news about new books and music from it, and stay connected to friends (real ones) and family.. It does feel good when we go away for a week or so and I can’t use the internet all that while, though!

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  3. I could be a hermit, have often wished to be one. Like you, I don’t need religion, cannot ‘do’ religion, for I see it as the ultimate hypocrisy. Peace is what I seek. A place where everyone respects everyone else, where there is a given right to privacy, and where nature reigns supreme. No phone, no Internet, no cell service. Just the sound of the wind whistling gently through the trees and the rain gently watering natures food. Beam me up, Scotty!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Beam me up, Scotty it would have to be, Jill. I don’t know of any place like that in this world, sadly, and wonder whether it is actually achievable. I guess we just have to keep working towards it and hope to get at least partway there.

      It’s probably another reason I love being among mountains or in the desert, though. No phone or internet, as you say, and none of the unnecessary fripperies. When you’re on your own in such an environment, I think it compels you to have an honesty about yourself and your situation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I don’t think there are any such places left, and if there are, it’s because they are so inaccessible that humans haven’t managed to get there and destroy them yet.

        I used to enjoy hiking in the woods and mountains for the reasons you mention … just me, whoever I was hiking with, and nature. Today, I can barely walk to the end of the block, so my hiking days seem to be over, but the memories remain.

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  4. I love using hermit as a verb – the whole description of that imaginary hermit life is very clever. The only set of beliefs that ever made sense to me is Buddhism, too. I did stand up for pantheism when I was about 10, after reading there was something called pantheism and it was all about worshipping nature. I actually lived in a Buddhist community for about 5 years and it was a wonderful experience – not easy but grounding in the best way. But in any case, here’s to going for a walk! 🙂

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      1. I guess in pagan and similar cultures, rituals were important means of communication with God. In current religions, a lot has developed as a differential feature. It may not be relevant for some religions but in many religions with many sects, the rituals are differential factor.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Very important, I think. And although the rituals may have changed, as far as I can see they are still here within every religion – the strictures on reciting scriptures exactly right each time, as though they were magic formulae that only worked if every single word were uttered in the correct order. If there were really a god, then surely this ritual would be unnecessary – they wouldn’t ignore the prayers of their followers just because they missed a word out or put insufficient stress upon a syllable?

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          1. well said. I think most religions focus far too much on rituals or methodology rather than the real essence. In reality, the way they are being practiced has put humans (& their interest) last on the list.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I fear we have all too many hermits around here. Word got around that there was a way to survive without working for a living. And what used to be thought of as speaking to the gods is now considered mental illness, or maybe a bit too much inspiration from the contents of a needle. It’s gotten so popular, that folks are now being drafted into being hermits whether they want to or not.

    Sorry about the Debbie Downer bit. Homelessness is a huge problem here, maybe our biggest.

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  6. This is such an interesting post, Mick. I love the term you use, ‘hermitty things.’ It conjures up images of crabs, snails and turtles to me, as well as the image of the hermits you described! I don’t think I’d make a very good hermit as, although I enjoy my own company, I wouldn’t want to spend too much time being that way. I also thought of you in your wanderings without your phone or other devices that connect us to the modern world – aren’t you afraid that if something dire were to occur (I do hope not), you wouldn’t be able to reach out to anyone for help? I know I would be petrified, but then, I suppose, being in a wheelchair, I’m a bit more vulnerable. I think I’ll stick to my armchair, laptop, keeping up with blogs 😉 and a comfy bed.

    I don’t have a religion either, but like you, if I had to choose one, it would be Buddhism, as I like their way of living peacefully and doing no harm to others, man or beast. I hope you are well, Mick.

    P.S. Totally off topic, I know, but I’m trying to decide whether to go the big protest in London outside the Houses of Parliament to try to ‘knock some sense’ into the government regarding climate change. It’ll be a real challenge in a wheelchair. I daresay you’ll hear about the protest on the news over the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, that point about not having a mobile phone should I get into difficulties. It’s a trade-off, that known risk against what I see as the benefits of not being ‘in touch’ all the time. I admit to taking my phone on longer journeys, but leaving it in the rucksack switched off all day. It’s not a smart phone, so I can’t use it for anything other than texts and calls anyway. And I’ve decided I’d rather take the risk and if I come a cropper, then so be it.

      It’d be nice if it were possible to knock some sense into this government, but I don’t think there’s the slightest chance of that. It’s so full of vested interests and, let’s face it, corruption, I don’t think it will happen. We just have to hope they’re toast at the next election.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Did you see a little TV series a few years back where they filmed in different monasteries monks going about their daily life, with no commentary and no dialogue. It was certainly an antidote to other TV, very calming and they looked quite comfortable.

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