Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. – Psalm 55:6
A few days ago, a photo caught my eye:
I have no idea where this place is. Obviously it’s somewhere in the far north – Alaska or northern Canada, perhaps – but the first thought that popped into my head was: “I could live there.” Why? Because it’s far away from everything.
Since my earliest days, I’ve liked solitude. I spent a significant portion of my young childhood wanting to be a hermit. It’s no wonder stories like this catch my eye (is that property still available?).
Nearly every long-term goal in my life involved a rural lifestyle. In my younger days I worked as a field biologist and spent months working in some amazingly remote areas: the White Mountains of California, the High Sierras, the mountains of southwest Oregon. I loved it.
Even now, having just turned 60 years old, my eyes are drawn toward the remote. Give me a photo of a distant tundra, a tiny island, or lofty mountains, and my first thought is, “I could live there.” The unifying factor in all these places? A lack of people. Happily my husband shares my penchant for isolation. Meet the Hermits.
The funny thing is how modern society considers solitude a temporary thing suitable only for accomplishing some vague mental-health goal. If you google “the longing for solitude,” you find a lot of people who long to “find” themselves and depart for some remote destination to locate what apparently has been lost. Invariably, they discover what they’re seeking, pen some heartfelt poetry, and return once again to their normal, crowded lives where the benefits of their solo journey soon wear off.
Solitude is defined as “the state of being or living alone; remoteness from habitations; or a lonely, unfrequented place.” If you consult a thesaurus, you’ll notice there’s not really many flattering synonyms for solitude. The best the English language can offer is loneliness, privacy, isolation, seclusion. They all have negative connotations, as if solitude is something to be avoided. The world revolves around extroverts. After all, humans are sociable creatures. To prefer solitude is seen as unhealthy and creepy.
Psychologists like to divvy up motivations for seeking solitude as “positive” (intrinsically motivated) and “negative” (extrinsically motivated) (“I enjoy the quiet” vs. “I feel anxious when I’m with others”). “When it comes to motivations for seeking solitude, the key factors in the equation are choice and an individual’s motivation for wanting to be alone,” notes this article.
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Clearly our family’s motivation is entirely positive. We do not experience loneliness, depression, or social anxiety. For this reason, most psychologists reluctantly conclude that the longing for solitude is not bad, just … unusual.
As an adult, the attraction of solitude increased as the government became more intrusive. It’s for this reason, when my husband and I downsized a couple years ago, we moved farther away from civilization. We now have a peaceful quasi-hermitage, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Of course, no earthly spot is perfect, and there’s room for improvement even here in our new home. The “perfect” hermitage would have the following characteristics: A place where we’re not bothered by government bureaucrats meddling in our lives and telling us what to do. A place where we can raise our livestock and crops in peace. A place where we’re not blitzed on all sides with news stories of tragedies and terrorist attacks. A place where Big Brother isn’t spying on our computers, telephones, cars, or via overhead drones. A place where the IRS isn’t pointing a gun at our heads and telling us we have to shell out $10,000 a year for something we don’t want. A place where the fruits of our labor are ours to do with as we wish, rather than being forcibly confiscated and redistributed to ungrateful recipients to buy things we could never afford.
Doesn’t that sound like a paradise on earth to you?
Hermits have a long and honorable history, embracing everything from early religious desert-dwellers, monasteries (multiple hermits living together) and just people who prefer to shun society. Interestingly, history often portrays hermits (unless they’re crazy) as wise men whose advice is sought.
But nowadays, those who enjoy solitude over society are often branded with the dubious term “loner,” and we all know where that leads. Loners were once associated with rugged individualists who were determined to do things through their own efforts. But today, loners are more often associated with serial-killers-in-training. They are considered suspicious by a government determined to track everybody to the nth degree. Too often it’s easy to view those who long for solitude as a breeding ground for domestic terrorism.
But really, some of us just like solitude.
As an introvert, I think longing for a hermitage is a natural result of the plethora of bad news we hear on a daily basis. Everywhere we turn, it seems, the news is hideous. Rapes, murders, terrorist attacks, racial tension, debt crises, inflation, economic collapse, wars … if it’s newsworthy, it’s bad news.
Any place where people gather together has the potential for catastrophe. People, in general, are trouble. So what’s a peace-loving housewife to do?
It’s times like this I must remind myself not to get too soured on people in general. Yes people can be evil, horrible, nasty, rotten, foul and loathsome. But people can also be joyous, creative, inspirational, loving and fun. Without people we would have no art, no music, no books. We would have missed out on tremendous accomplishments and creativity and amazing innovations.
And we would have missed out on meeting and interacting with so many people who truly love America, who understand what a unique and amazing and miraculous nation we have. If we hid ourselves away, we wouldn’t have the chance to join with patriotic folks in the necessary effort to change America’s disastrous course.
So I’ll put aside the desire for a hermitage and face facts. It was Barry Goldwater who said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
I guess I’ll leave the “moderation” to the true maniacs.
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