Why does a person need to spend some hours of the day as a hermit? (At the moment this might seem an odd thing to write especially as many of us are locked away in our homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.) A psychologist might suggest that the human brain has only one speed at which it can process information and needs time to process effectively. Taking yourself away from the buzz of human business will certainly allow your head time to rearrange itself.
Withdrawing from social interaction allows us to go deep. Deep into our experience of each other and deep into our encounter with reality. Our day-to-day experience is where we gather material to create a meaningful life. And to create true meaning out of this material, we need to go deep.
How deep do we need to go?
Maybe we get too busy composing the narrative of our lives and putting it out there through social media or conversation – both can make us appear quite narcissistic – that we don’t go deep enough. Contrary to what others might say, we are not our story, we are so much more. To get tangled up trying to compose and perform our best life-narrative, is to miss the chance to go deeper. Deeper into ourselves. To go loneliness-deep.
Loneliness-deep, away from the buzz of human business, is where we encounter our true selves. At this level we have no attachment to the world. We are alone. This is where the fragments of our experience flows into a sense of unity where we discover our connection to the rest of existence. Our individuality is lost but not our sense of being. And this sense of being is filled with value, beauty, love, compassion… This is certainly the beginning of religious experience. It is what makes us human. It is beyond words and story and rests in the eternal, the infinite.
This is what hermits have been telling us for centuries.
When we find ourselves at loneliness-deep we discover the magic and wonder, but also the limitations, of the human path. We never leave the world when we travel to our loneliness-deep. In fact we travel deeper into our experience of the world and we see it in a more profound way. The joy, the suffering, and the actuality of the world become more real and closer to us. If we abandoned the loneliness-deep to live full-time in the world as objects of the world then we become bound to its joy and suffering just as a story is bound to its characters and plot.
Becoming a part-time hermit will give you the chance to live in the world more meaningfully. Spending some hours of the day away from your story, away from ideas about yourself, from your ambitions, your status, will enable you to behold the space, usually filled by your self-engineering, fill with stuff that doesn’t belong to you, but is part of you, nonetheless. You’ll feel the loneliness of not having a story, but you’ll rediscover a life.