Why a Hermit? Escaping Loneliness in a Young World

I probably should post this on Ask Old Jules, but nobody much reads that blog.  Not that it matters whether anyone reads it, I suppose.  But if I’m going to compose words something in me likes it better thinking it will be read by someone else, than to just fade into oblivion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this solitude addiction of mine lately, attempting to be candid with myself about it and what it means.  The tripwire involved several emails I’ve received asking what makes me do it, want it, whatever.  It’s plain enough the emails were sincere and genuinely interested, at least on some level.  But it’s also patently obvious the concept is foreign enough to those asking to leave them without a foundation for thinking about it.

One of the emailers was a cautious man carefully lo0king for someone to keep an eye on a property he owns in a remote area.  He’s somewhat caught between conflicting realities, I suppose.  There’s a need for someone ‘responsible, someone he can trust.  But anyone who’d stay there and do what needs doing is going to be a person he can’t understand, can’t identify with.

His concern’s legitimate.  If he allows someone to occupy the place and they happen to be the sort to cook meth on the side, or grow illegal herb, he’s in danger of having the property confiscated.  But he also runs that risk even if the grower or cook enter the unattended property without his knowing it.  Absentee ownership isn’t as seductive a proposition as it once was.

But the email exchange did get me asking myself to form some candid understanding of exactly what motivates me and why I’m a lot happier not being around people much.  And the eventual answer startled me a bit, seemed internally inconsistent.

I generally like people okay as individuals, I concluded, but dislike them in the composite.  I don’t have much in common with groups, but I can almost always find something in common with individuals.  So when I meet strangers in town I find I’m able to have friendly, enjoyable exchanges, though brief.

But I’m always acutely aware that each of those strangers is a part of some larger we, identifying with it, considering himself and it inseparable at some fundamental level.  And almost every ‘we’ I’ve ever examined closely has led me to want nothing to do with it. 

However, another piece of being around ‘we’ identifications scattered around all over urban landscapes is the forced realization of isolation and exclusion of a different sort than that of a hermit, deliberately self-imposing solitude.

The simple fact is, I get lonely and hell when I’m around people.  And I’m not lonely at all when I’m not. 

At least I think I might if I tried it.  I actually don’t recall ever feeling lonely under those circumstances, though I do recall not caring for it.

Old Jules


34 responses to “Why a Hermit? Escaping Loneliness in a Young World

  1. Sounds like you and I have a thing or two in common, Jules.

    I need my time alone, out in the woods, along the banks of a pond or river, in an old graveyard or driving the backroads. I realized long ago most folks I know don’t have the same interests I do, and some time later came to understand that it was a good thing.

    If I want company, I’ve got my wife and kids; otherwise, I’m pretty happy doing my own thing in my own way.

  2. maybe a flock-shepard type of thing, you might want to be part of the flock on some levels but that does not fit your job description, which may be that of the Shepard on some levels…..explains the chicken farming aspects of your existence…..it may be something you are fighting to resist/deny on a sub-conscious level in the sense that once you know who and what you really are you will give up that search. Then again it may just be a basic intolerance for gatherings of more than two a**holes at any one time. A worthy subject to explore in the future. Have a great day bro…..

  3. “I generally like people okay as individuals, I concluded, but dislike them in the composite.”

    Ah, OldJules, you took the words right out of my brain. Great post.

    I think there are just different sorts of people out there and as try as we might, we have a hard time figuring each other out. I think the key is to keep trying. And I suppose that goes to keep trying to figure out ourselves.

  4. If you have a dog (or other pet) – a good book (or comp) – and if you’re happy, that’s all that matters. Enjoy your company. Sounds like you do. 🙂

  5. Those of us that can really understand the above would have the same trouble trying to explain the above. “But anyone who’d stay there and do what needs doing is going to be a person he can’t understand, can’t identify with.” is so true

  6. The lonliest I’ve been in a few years was last weekend at a crowded work event. Not one person I knew well, not one I trusted, not one I could talk about anything interesting with. But gawd, people bloody everywhere. I was never lonely sitting at home all day with the cats and dog, and without a job. Never even crossed my mind…

  7. Yes, yes, yes…….

  8. I sure can relate to what you’re saying, and my sense of being alone in a crowd only becomes more pronounced as I approach 50. Never one to notice fashion much, I still can’t escape noticing how unnecessary a woman past 30 is in our society. But then, the older I get, the more unnecessary “they” all seem to me. I’ve got my books and my easel…

    Don’t forget to eat….

    • Good morning Melissa: I’d have to observe the people of both genders and all ages are individually unnecessary in our society, though possibly the most necessary are women past the age of thirty. Nearer forty, actually. Sometime back there I noticed a woman never actually becomes a woman until she lives through the fortieth year. Gracias, Jules

  9. My hunch is quite a few people feel this way you described. Because the majority is connected to a “we.” In my mind, the we your hinting at, isn’t the collective-unconscious “we,” but the hidden agenda “we,” the needy we. Those with open-minds, open-hearts, compassion, and the ability to accept, forgive, and let others just be—those are the type I can more easily be around. But I try to respect everyone. I like people who try to be absent of fear (as much as humanly possible) in the way that fear gets people wrapped up into identity and agenda. If you get around to it, here’s a post I wrote about that feeling of isolation. It’s somewhat related, I suppose. But don’t ask me how. If you don’t get around to it, no worries. I “ain’t” into the “we” thing much either. Continue to love the “voice” in your stories. ~ Sam


  10. I like the books and easel response. I’m so with you on that.

    If it wasn’t for my daughter and grandkids, I could vanish and just do my thing. I have electricity and the internet. Hey, works for me. Nothing wrong with that, right? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to be more social because I have sought out like spirits. In this I consider myself very lucky. I’m still not a trusting sort. I’ve made the best of my life and am happy. I don’t need much to do that.

  11. Absentee ownership is NOT what it used to be – no. Every time we think about leaving the islands, but buying some little place ‘just in case’ we ever wanted to return – well, it’s just untenable. Too many problems, even with land – maybe especially with land on these islands!
    I share many of your sentiments, esp in regards to groups. I don’t do well in them. I don’t know if it’s an introvert thing or just that I’ve spent the better part of my life in wilderness. There’s always a part of me that knows I need to get back into mixing with people simply because I’m part of the human race and how dare I judge ‘humans’ when I’m one of them? And there’s always this really strong part that wants to hole up and be still forever. Balance, I think, is the key for me. And dogs 😉

  12. I was musing the other day how introverts never make up more than a quarter of any population. Even if we all got together and voted — an impossibility by definition — we’d still lose. But we’d make a very cheap government, because we wouldn’t even show up to get paid, much less do expensive stuff.

  13. apocalypseicons

    Dear Jules, I understand that comment about feeling lonelier amongst people than when actually alone. i suffer the same problem. After a day with people yesterday I could not wait to get home and be free of all the ‘stuff’ they pass on.
    Here is something interesting however, it happened last night north of England-

    Wish I had been up there to see it. Does not look meteorish to me, what do you think?

    • Hi apocalypseicons: Thanks for coming by. The link says the video’s no longer available, so I couldn’t watch it, but the descriptions by observers were intriguing. I’ll confess that, while I’ve seen a lot of meteors, some spectacular, I’ve never seen one change directions. I can think of possible ways they might, but there’s no way of knowing, I reckons. Gracias, Jules

  14. I used to feel the same about my solitary life. As a kid, I was an outcaste wanting into the inner circle badly. I was eventually able to attain some amount of acceptance and even minor, local fame. It was nice for awhile, but I kept craving solitude. Like most folks, I find common ground with most other people and like humanity as a whole and individually. But when push comes to shove, I can’t wait for them to go away and leave me in my precious peace. Blogging gives me a little bit of balance to the quietude.

    • Good Morning Swabby: Thanks for the visit. Quietude’s a word that isn’t used a lot. Never has been, to my knowledge, except in the works of the 20th Century philosopher Karl Jaspers. Good word. Gracias, Jules

  15. “If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.” (Jean-Paul Sartre) I think loners are simply very good at keeping themselves occupied. Loners prefer to find meaning in their surroundings, not in other people.

  16. Hey Jules, have you read A Canticle for Leibowitz? I just finished it and this bit reminded me of your post:
    ” ‘Better be careful. They say he throws rocks at climbers.’
    ‘I haven’t seen him for five years,’ the abbot confessed. ‘And I’m ashamed that I haven’t. He’s lonely. I’ll go.’
    ‘If he’s lonely, why does he insist on living like a hermit?’
    ‘To escape loneliness–in a young world.’
    The young priest laughed. ‘That perhaps makes his kind of sense, Domne, but I don’t quite get it.’
    ‘You will, when you’re my age, or his.’ “

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