Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

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.

* Words from an unknown hermit – Ego (3 of 10)

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”.


“It is odd how so much of Freud’s terminology, to describe states of the contemporary psyche, has become obsolete, yet the term ‘ego’ endures.  Even Eastern Gurus use it unquestionly, as a self-evident fact.  But the ego and egoism imply selfishness and a self-centred fortress.  It is heavily theory-laden.  For Freud the ego was an aspect of the self and by no means the whole thing.  A human being can live with little, or even without, an ego and still possess a flourishing self.

“For hermits the ego is only a preliminary nuisance, rarely significant.  The self, with a small ‘s’ is another matter altogether.  This self can be quite unselfish, even wise, its borders are wide and fluctuating, it’s damn hard to know for sure where this little illusory self is not.  It’s damn difficult to leave this little self behind for it can wear any mask, don any suit of clothes, speak any tongue however obscure and erudite.  This self can be as humble as the pavement you walk upon, and harder to crack.

“The ego as a proud and primary persona is a dilemma of Babylon:  Success requires it and humility abhors it.  Victims prefer a humble victor; they are the majority and could overwhelm the victorious.  Some measure of humility, however false, is pragmatic.  Ego is what energizes society and so long as the individual is socially successful, their egotism will be accounted a virtue by all but their competitors.  Hermits, by leaving society, largely leave the ego behind with it.

“The ego does not necessarily block the pursuit of wisdom and liberation but the small self certainly does, because liberation consists in merging with the greater universal Self, use any of the synonyms you like, that we all partake of but usually cannot see because it is hidden by the circus ruckus of our illusory but awfully determined little self.  This is the theory.  The proof is in the pudding: unless experienced it’s just a theory.

‘The ego can be used as a battering ram to bust through the fortress of the self.  If we care enough about ourselves to desire liberation, even the pleasure principle can become a hacksaw and a hammer to cut through and knock down the walls and bars of our imprisoning personality.

“Why care about theories…Hermits have another answer: Solitude, silence, simplicity.  Simply observing the rise and fall of phenomena, both the inner and outer manifestations.  Minimalising to the maximum life support requirements to free up as much time possible to simply observe, to listen, to wait.  The hermitage will dissolve the prison of personality, of temporality and illusion.  In time, when everything is ready and ripe, the fruit will appear, if we are so fortunate as to have a hermitage in the first place, all we need to do is to appreciate it, waste not a moment more than necessary, simply live it and observe.  If we don’t meddle and mess things up, everything will take care of itself.  every hermit’s experience confirms this.”

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This entry was posted on February 1, 2011 by in Hermits, Hermits & Solitude, Life Skills and tagged , , , , .
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