Tag Archives: solitude

Introduction to Being a Hermit

The following is an email that Old Jules wrote several years ago and subsequently posted on a previous blog. I’m posting it after his description of the Peace Corps experience to give continuity to that time period.  ~Jeanne

Old Jules:
This was the most recent of a long line of exchanges with an online friend, a man  who mostly he believes his life is a living hell out of habit, except when he reminds himself he’s blessed, which is only when I remind him to remind himself, thinks I.

Thought I’d share it with you blog readers.  I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned my brief life as a hermit.

Morning Pal:

I suppose you’re right.  You live a complicated life.  It would be complicated, just with your interpersonal relationships, even if you didn’t have a job that would be enough to satisfy most needs for complication.  Even if you didn’t have a piece of real estate that’s located in and part of a subtle war zone.  It’s relatively easy to imagine how you’d have some difficulties focusing, relaxing, or anything else.

A long time ago, when I had a complicated life, I used to wonder whether a stay in the sort of place where you work, an asylum, would do the trick as a means of getting me removed from the system of complications I’d built around myself to help make myself unhappy.  I concluded that it wouldn’t.

 I also gave some thought to whether prison life would do it, but unless it was one of those kinds of Federal prisons all the Watergate folks went to, I don’t think it could.

Thought about a Trappist monastery a bit, even.  That might do it.  I don’t know, but it seemed so otherwise out of sync with my nature that I never tried it.

But I had the advantage over most people, because I knew what I was missing.  When I got booted out of the Peace Corps in 1964, after a bit of time trying to complicate my life in Honolulu the way a person will, I was contacted by the US Army Reserve telling me they wanted to know where I was in case they wanted to reactivate me for Vietnam if they needed people with my particular MOS.  In those early days of 1965 nobody knew where all that was going and reactivating the reserves was considered a real possibility.

My support for US military adventures overseas went away entirely during my tour in the Far East.  I was gonna have nothing to do with Vietnam.  I decided I was going to spend the remainder of my life as a hermit living in the jungle on the big island….. a place called Wiamono Valley on the drainage of the Kohala range…. used to be a village in there but it was wiped out by the tidal wave in 1947 and nobody laid claim on it since.  Nobody in there but a blind mule and me…. for six weeks that mule had company.

That six weeks with nobody to talk to but a blind mule changed my whole life.  It was a pivotal moment for me, one of the greatest blessings of my stay in this reality this time around.  In addition to a book-full of other benefits, it gave me a realization of what’s possible for a human being, mind-wise, if he can succeed in either simplifying his life, or in (I didn’t know then) distancing himself from the web of values, properties, interpersonal relationships and other tangle we do our best to mire ourselves in so we can’t see or hear what we’re trying to keep from seeing and hearing…… the voice of what’s beneath.

I definitely understand what you’re saying, my friend.  Hang in there.

(Old Jules)

The Challenge of Quietude

Things could seem fairly grim to almost anyone trying to stumble through this new century.  Somebody always walking into a schoolhouse with a gun, someone always bombing someone else, shooting someone else.

  • A cop probably feels things are middling dangerous for cops, feels things have gotten out of hand, feels threatened.
  • Store employees fearing their bosses, merchants fearing their employees, all of them fearing the dangerous potential of every customer.
  • Politicians fearing the opposing party, fearing the voters, fearing the prez.
  • Gang bangers fearing opposing gang bangers, fearing the cops, fearing their brother gang members knowing they’ll sell them out for a plea-bargain in a minute if faced with a long-term sentence.
  • Druggies fearing the dealers, fearing the cops, fearing the high cost of a habit, fearing other druggies, fearing their families, fearing do-gooder mammas and sisters and angry wives who might give them to the cops ‘for their own good’ after a long series of attempts to kick that didn’t work.
  • Christians fearing Muslims, Muslims fearing Christians, everyone fearing what the price sign above the gas pump’s going to show the day after the November election.
  • Single women fearing they’ll grow old without a man, married people fearing they’ll lose their partners to disease, to war, to accidents, to infidelity, to abuse.
  • Everyone fearing for the kids, for their safety, their increasingly brainless approaches to reality, for their futures.
  • Everyone watching the television screen, everyone shaking his head with the latest thing happened somewhere.

We’re in one of those niches in human history during which mass hysteria prevails.  An erosion of faith, a lapse of memory as a result of the bombardment of news submerging the mass-consciousness into the goldfish bowl of NOW.

The reality is that things aren’t worse now than they’ve ever been. 

Death still comes one-to-the-customer.

Kids, cops, gang bangers, birds, whales, baby seals, druggies, Christians, Muslims, every living creature is going to cross the finish line, same as they always have.

People aren’t killing one another more frequently than they’ve ever done.  They’re doing it about the same amount as they always have.  Killing and stomping one another, enslaving one another, robbing one another, invading one another.

Life’s a tough gig if we forget we’re going to die.  It always has been.

The challenge to man has always been putting himself above all that.  The courage to accept he/she will die, the kids will die, their kids will die.

The challenge is in the courage of acceptance, of distancing the self from the daily events creating the illusion death is somehow foreign, unnatural.  Tragic.

The challenge lies in living in the knowledge we’re going to die while behaving as though we aren’t.  In the courage to transcend the inevitability and allow ourselves to understand those other folks, the kid-killers, the gang bangers, the druggies, the cops, the government goons, the Christians and Muslims, the sheeple, all of them are just the same as us.  All stumbling around trying to get through this life.

The challenge lies in forgiving them for forgetting, forgiving ourselves for forgetting, we’re going to die and submerging ourselves in fear and brother hate.

The challenge lies in transcending the forgiveness enough to be grateful for the moments, every one of them, between the crying and the dying.  Grateful for the pain, the hardship, the loss, and the spiritual growth potential.

The challenge of acceptance that it ain’t all flowers and honey, never  has been, never was supposed to be.  That this life isn’t about what happens across the ocean, in Washington, in the crack-house down the block, or in the next bedroom where the kids are sleeping.

This life is about this side of the ocean, this city, this block, this house, this bedroom, right there where you are sleeping.

The impression you are making in that mattress, that pillow is where the minutes are ticking away, that’s where opportunities to become something better are located somewhere in a flash of life and time that’s ticking, ticking, ticking, trickling sand into the bottom of the glass.

The courage to repudiate the mind-games of others.

Others shouting to you that where someone else dies matters.  Others demanding you pretend you won’t have to die, if you hire more cops, hand more of your personal decision-making over to the government, watch more television, put more people in prison, send the army off to stomp bad guys somewhere.

Ignoring the cowards whispering if you avoid different ingredients in your food, buy the latest health miracle and don’t breathe second-hand smoke you won’t have to die.

That’s the challenge.  Same as it’s always been.

Old Jules


Four Sacred Mountains- R. Carlos Nakai (Song for the Morning Star)