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”.
“It is often our love of the Good, Justice, the higher human virtues that leads us to a philosophy that commands detachment from these very same virtues; it is often our pain, our hatred even, of cruelty, injustice, hypocrisy and destruction that drives us to a practice of detachment from what repels us. Yet this very same spiritual philosophy, in whichever form it takes, also commands Prem, Universal Love and a virtuous practice, rarely substantially different from the one we were practicing. Somehow what brought us to the door must be left outside so that we may enter the door, within which we practice what in fact led us here. It is like betraying the one you love, by not loving them anymore, in order to love them again, later, more perfectly. It is ceasing to hate what we reject in order to eject what is hateful from our hearts.
“Loving our enemies is not loving evil. Ceasing to feel passionately about right and wrong is not psychopathy. We do not replace passionate moral attachments with a selfish apathy. We do not kill because we hate murder, but rather because we have neither need nor desire to hurt or harm anything; and compassion replaces hatred for the destructive selfish delusion people are often swallowed up by.
“Nevertheless, it feels like betrayal to abandon the feelings that inspired such noble sacrifice in us. It feels dangerous, like playing with fire, to feel impartial towards evil. It is easy to be negligent and cruel behind a mask of detachment and relativism. It is easy to become addicted to anything from sloth to smoking when we turn off the alarm of a passionate ethical code. It is ever so easy for the sophistry of intellect to lure us into deeper error in our actions when we no longer have the watchdog of a powerful moral referee to howl “Foul Play!” and bark us back to the “straight and narrow.”
“As hermits, remember, we usually have no guru, unless we are among those extra-blessed who come across an elder accomplished hermit in need of an assistant-apprentice. Many of us may abide by the rules of a monastic order but with no one watching over it isn’t difficult for mere thinking to rationalise them away. After all we are not interested in obeying rules or precepts for their own sake; none of that is sacred to us. But now we are asked to give up what really is sacred to us: our moral convictions, our passionate ideals, our guiding principles: The Olympian fires of our loves and our hates.
“Every moment of every day is a threshold on which we teeter. The door is always before us, though not always so clearly, let alone ajar, it beckons as we totter on the doorstep. The abyss of everything we know is behind us, we can topple back into it as into an old nightmare. Or we can push forward, our hope on an uncertain bliss, if we give up everything, even analogies, and accept everything, especially antipathies.”