My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
I’ve written before about the “Hermit Writings of S” and posted his script in its entirety on this site. See here.
In order to bring his writings to a wider audience, I’m going to post extracts from the Hermit Writings according to various themes which he himself used as sub-titles. They’re intended as bite-sized chunks that may be more easily digested. He writes well, argues simply and coherently and with a commonsense that is both engaging and intriguing. Judge for yourself.
Little is know about the man who calls himself S. He may be living, or have lived, in northern Canada, as there are references to the “huge horseshoe landscape curing around James Bay, the pre-Cambrian Great Canadian Shield, vast tangled forests sieved through the lakes and rivers”.
No Turning Back
“For a hermit driven by, on the one hand, a pantheon of noble virtues and ideals in the wilderness of this banal materialistic age, and, on the other, driven from the horrors of injustice destroying every corner of our planet and corrupting every human heart, the need for an unambiguous hypocrisy-free rational ethical and realistic hermit-perspective is of paramount importance.
“You can stave off the “pull” to become a hermit but once you have experienced the freedom and wisdom of the hermit life in harmony with nature and free from desire, even briefly and in flashes, you can never again whole heartedly return to this world. Many of us would rather join the homeless on the streets than reintegrate to consumer slavery or even participate minimally with Babylon.
“Famously, the Buddha faced this existential vision, (the transience of life, illness, old age and death, the ubiquitous fact of suffering), but he enjoyed a Vedic heritage to work from, one filled with faith in reincarnation and numerous sophisticated practices. More importantly, the future of humanity was as yet unknown, the world was still fresh, wildernesses were everywhere as were yet-to-be discovered, yet-to-be destroyed societies. The destructive, cruel and insane aspects of humans were circumscribed and could at times be remedied or evaded. Who can believe in that any longer? In the last decade, let alone the last century, how much genocide have we sat back and watched helplessly? Technology has made war and oppression more devastating and pervasive than ever dreamt of by pre-WW1 warmongers. Yet in spite of all the efforts and sacrifices of pacifists and the wisest and most capable humans on the planet, wars abound and social and environmental damage has spread like an uncontrollable plague in every direction.
“Many are hermits in order to reduce their own negative participation in a very negative world. The Sage’s advice to withdraw when the emperor is bad, translates in the modern world, on ethical grounds in particular, that it is all hopelessly insane and we should remain in permanent retreat, and for those with an historic sense, human society has been mostly an immoral violent bedlam, except that in the past it was often possible to escape to “new worlds,” deep forests, empty deserts, solitary mountain tops, idyllic islands and so forth. A number of cultures even enjoyed hermit traditions where one could set up near a village with a reasonable expectation of an adequate charity.
“Not any longer. Where it exists, charity has been institutionalised with all the restrictions and qualifications that that status entails. It certainly never includes hermits. People are suspicious and diffident especially regarding individuals living in poverty or mendicant. As we all know, today hermits are by and large considered crazy or lazy escapists. Advice to would-be hermits today is invariably to make money to buy and set up a retreat, which is a complete and unacceptable contradiction for many hermits. Isn’t that what everyone in Babylon intends to do? Work hard (regardless of “collateral damage”), save up, and carve out some dream home to retire in? On the other hand, voluntarily begging while millions are starving or refugees or homeless or dying from disease and war, is not an easy option for us. Then, the wild uninhabited places are fewer and fewer by the day, often government controlled and off-limits to hermits: Where to go and how to live there have become the primary problems, not the when or if as in former times.
“Hermits who renounce and reject contemporary society may accept a bucolic retreat if it comes their lucky way spontaneously, though they may reject it on principle if it is too obviously an advantage of affluence, and, in any case, it can quite easily be lost as many contemporary hermits can attest. On the whole hermits will seek any immediate solution that reduces their participation in this terrible unjust global catastrophe. Any shelter that lets them live relatively unencumbered by social routines and free from hypocrisy and negative social involvement: In a tenement, an institution, a tent, a lean-to, a cellar, a prison cell, a casket if needs be, anything anywhere they can pursue some measure of purity of being and liberation from this nightmare. Those who can enter into some level of samadhi, meditation, and more or less remain there throughout this life will have found one of the safest refuges. Some form of the Zen-ultimatum of “Satori or Suicide!”
“For those who can’t …. they had better have some strong philosophy to support them before a bitter old-age eats them alive.”