The Secular Hermit

Serenity, Simplicity, Self-Sufficiency, and Eco-Centricity

I have decided at this late stage of my life to live an eredite lifestyle. Actually, maybe this is more like where I find myself at this time in my life, and I quite like it.

I have been pulling further and further away from the culture and society in which I grew up and lived all these 73 years. This process actually has been ongoing for several decades, but has accelerated the last few years. For the first time in my adult life I find myself living alone and single. This process has been further augmented by my closing down my counseling practice. I am now in “retired” status mode with regards to my LPC (licenced professional counselor). I guess I am “emeritus” here as I am an Emeritus Professor of Zoology from Clemson University?

Classically hermits were religiously oriented, e.g. The Desert Fathers and Mothers of fourth century Egypt, Thomas Merton, John the Baptist, etc. They went to the deserts, forrests, mountains, etc., to be away from society and people and to get closer to God. But then there was Henry David Thoreau his two years on Walden Pond (Walden) Thoreau was not exactly religious but talked a lot about God and nature. Walden was mainly his relating his life experiment in individualism, a classic protest against government interference, and a life of simplicity and being close to nature. I’m not going that far but in that direction.Thought a lot about it. Daydreamed for over a couple of decades off and on about building a Tiny House and living in the Chihuahuan Desert area in Big Bend area in Texas. Hence my two books, WindWalker and Guru, that took place in or in part in that area.*

I am not “religious.” I am, however, spiritual. Spirituality, I define as cultivating serenity and personal growth–a very secular definition. No religion per se involved. In my Guru book, I write about secular spirituality (pp 138-139). Of how you can be spiritual without being religious.

The second title above is a subtitle. The whole of the first two together represents the working title of my current book project. I started out with a working title of, Buddha on a Bike. This will probably become the introductory chapter now. Many of my blog posts will become components of this project. As I surveyed the hermit literature, it is replete with all kinds of God/religious stuff but sorely lacking in a secular perspective. This deficit is where my book is directed. It will not be directed per se at hermits, but rather to folks that wish to cultivate serenity, simplicity, self-reliance, and eco-centricity in their lives. Eco-centricity, coming from an ecological frame of reference in our perspectives and actions, I discuss in more detail in an earlier post.

As hermits go, they can take all kinds of forms. I am located in a small South Carolina town, close to my family: adult children (3), grandchildren (5), and one great grandchild. I interact and communicate with them daily usually. We have family dinners and celebrations. I can pick up the phone, email, or text, any one of them, sometimes just to chat. I take daily walks down the street to my daughters and visit with my two-year old granddaughter. She has her Granddaddy wrapped around her finger. So, I’m not all that isolated.

Part of this process has been my selling my truck, switching to a bicycle-only lifestyle (at least as a trial), downsizing, simplifying, and decluttering. The last three are in progress. I am going through my house, office, and shops taking a Maria Kondo (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) approach MOL. Not quite that OCD, but trying to really evaluate stuff. I plan on having a big yard sell with much of it. Some, I’m selling on Craig’s List or FB Market. The rest I’ll donate to one of the area thrift shops.

I’m getting even more Bohemian than the above. Several years ago I watched a movie entitled, The Straight Story (1999), a Disney film starring Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek. He is an older gentleman like myself with very limited money (Hey, that’s like me too!). He wanted to visit his ailing/dying brother he hadn’t seen for many years but didn’t have a car or drive. He did have a John Deere lawn mower though. He constructed himself a little camping trailer to pull behind it and took a 250 mile trip on it to visit his brother. It would probably be the last time they would see each other.

Well, hell, I have a JD yard tractor (JD 170)! I mean that sucker’s got a 36 hp engine on it, most of it useless. I have a trailer for my ebike, but for some things it’s not big enough, not to mention getting it up hills around here. I’m in the process of installing signal/emergency lights on the JD 170 and its bigger trailer. It will even pull my full-size 5′ x 8′ trailer. I’ve hauled a load of firewood on it using the yard tractor. For bigger, heavier loads, I’ll still have to use my son’s pickup. I’ll post a blog on this once I have the lights installed.

I am also moving my home office downstairs in preparation for remodeling the upstairs into a studio apartment for rental. There will come the day when going up and down those stairs may get more challenging. This is quite an involved process requiring remodeling the bathroom and constructing a wall across my living room. I’m hoping to have it ready to rent by the first of the year.

Introversion**Solitude** Loneliness

Introversion**Solitude** Loneliness

I am by nature an introvert. As opposed to extroverts, who love to be around lots of people, introverts prefer small groups of intimate or close friends. As I have aged, my introverted nature has expressed itself more and more. As my youngest daughter points out, Dad, you just don’t like people! I’m not quite that bad. There are a few people I like–on or two–but, overall, she has a point. At this point in my life, I mostly don’t care to be around people, especially stupid people. This type is running amok these days! Introverts draw their energy from solitude.

Another factor that comes in here in regards to my being a hermit is my hearing. I have lost probably 60% of my hearing even with the fancy hearing aids I have. Hearing loss runs in the males of my family on the Yardley side I found out about 20 years ago. It is often characteristic of us older folks that as our hearing fails, we isolate ourselves more and more. I’m sure that is part of what is going on with me. I have to read lips a lot as well as listen as well as I can, especially in noisy situations or with soft spoken people. It is very draining for me so I just prefer the silence.

Solitude is one of the big benefits of being a hermit. Along with that solitude comes the time and-inner silence and stillness nurturing my spiritual practice and creativity. Solitude can be a powerful driver of creativity. I meditate (do zazen), three times a day. Often the morning sessions are double sittings. I also keep an extensive journal.

The downside of lots of solitude, however, is loneliness. Loneliness has always been one of my bugaboos. I’m trying to be proactive on this issue. Sometimes it still gets through. This is where my Buddhist practice and teachings come in. I remind myself that it is all impermanent; it will pass. To accept things as they are in the moment and to be mindful and focus on whatever it is I am doing in each moment. And also, to get busy; do something physical: go for a bike ride, take the dogs for a walk, go out and work in the yard or garden, etc.

Intimacy

Being a “good” hermit means balancing one’s social interactions with the solitude/alone time. You have to find the right balance between the two. Mine’s not quite in a comfortable balance yet, but I’m working on it. I get plenty of social interaction with my family. However, an important component of the “social” component is intimacy. That part, I had worked out too, but as of late it has unraveled. By intimacy, I am talking about someone you can really bare your soul to, and, the physical too. I may be getting old, but I ain’t dead yet. Everything still works. A friend with benefits would be nice. Speaking of being a “good” hermit–

A Hermit’s Code?

I’m thinking of something like, Captain Jack Sparrow’s “Pirates’ Code” in the movies, Pirates of the Caribbean series. So far, I haven’t run across a hermit’s code. Just what constitute, for example, a “good” hermit? I often ask myself when I’m making some decisions, “What would a good hermit do?” If any of my readers out there, all two of you, comes across a “hermits code,” please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll stumble along as best I can.

I will be posting on how this process is progressing. It’s an experiment in life. Life is an experiment, and then you die. Gassho

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