Hi I'm Philip Newey, author and editor. Here are some thoughts, ideas and other nonsense. I may, at times, express some views that offend some readers. I make no apologies for that. Read on at your own risk. Be sure to also visit my writer's page: http://philipnewey.com. I also run a manuscript services business called All-read-E: http://philipnewey.com/All-read-E.htm
Thursday, November 22, 2012
On being a hermit
I have, it must be
admitted, slightly hermitic tendencies. I almost wrote “hermetic”, as in sealed
off from the outside world, which may sometimes be true as well. But I meant “hermitic”,
as in a tendency to be a hermit and withdraw from the world. In the early days
of Christianity, hermits were regarded as holy men and women. Many lived alone
in caves. Some, such as Simeon Stylites, spent many years living perched on a
small platform supported by a pillar. They depended on the faithful to bring
them what little food they ate, and paid scant regard for personal hygiene. In
eighteenth century England it was quite fashionable to keep a pet hermit
somewhere down the bottom of the estate, in the hermitage.
There are many reasons
for withdrawing from the world. This may be for a time of healing or
reflection. Many writers become periodically hermitic at crucial stages in the
writing process. There are also less constructive withdrawals, when, for
example, we are running away from responsibility or seeking to avoid confrontation.
The ability to withdraw constructively from society is becoming increasingly
difficult. This is due to both technology and the very nature of contemporary
society. Technologically, “down time” or “quiet time” is becoming a thing of
the past, as we carry our office, our friends and our family with us in a
little, rectangular box. Being alone and undisturbed has become, if not
physically, at least psychologically, impossible for many people. From the
point of view of society, it will not tolerate withdrawal: we are irrevocably
responsible to and dependent on society. Even the “ferals” – this may be an
exclusively Australian designation for people who try to drop out of society
and live an alternative lifestyle – draw unemployment benefits.
Time and time again in
my thinking about the modern world I encounter the perhaps ill-defined concept
of stress. When crowded together, most animals become stressed. Either physically,
or in less tangible ways, we are always jostling for space and position,
elbowing others out of the way, trampling others, or being trampled. Space and
time are rare and extremely valuable “commodities”. We need time and space, our
own time and space, to maintain our physical and psychological well being.
Without it, the result is what we have today: a society full of people who are
always on the verge of exploding, whether that be in the form of road rage,
supermarket rage or Columbine/Utøya massacres.
I admit that my own
hermitic tendencies are not always healthy. Nevertheless, it would probably
benefit each of us individually and society as a whole if we were to make "time
out" and "space out" an integral part of our lives. Turn off that phone and leave it
off all day, for perhaps one day every month.