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.