Monday, January 09, 2017

All By Myself

For Christmas, I got a book about being a hermit. Doubtless somebody is trying to tell me something......

Hermits: caves; brown sackcloth; bad teeth and temper; crazy hair (yep, somebody is definitely trying to tell me something.......) The public image isn't great.

At root, the word hermit refers to a person 'of the desert'; a hermit today is defined (at least, by Catholic practitioners) as a person who chooses a solitary life for spiritual reasons. Grumpy old women and Robinson Crusoe do not count!

A friend in church employment once told me he didn't get the secluded religious life thing. It seemed so dull, on the one hand and, on the other, like an irresponsible escape from real life. I suspect this is the majority view. And he was referring to religious communities - the solitary thing is a step further into crazy, right!?

Personally, I am a bit in awe of these folk who respond faithfully to a desire to live simply, prayerfully and alone. The desert is scary! I can't face that much reality about who I am. But I like to paddle in the shallows of these deep sands because the little bits of separation from the world that I manage are always life-changing.

For example, periods of fasting from social media. Depending less on screen time for relaxation. Incorporating silent solitude into life. (This is boring because it is difficult to be alone with oneself. It bears down on you, makes you realise how scattered you are. Try sitting still in silence for 20 minutes, focusing on what you're doing rather than what you have to do when you get up again! It's hard. I've been practising for nearly ten years and 20 minutes still eludes me.)

Learning how to turn my back on the crowd of judgemental voices in my head. Refusing to dwell on what (I think) others think of me. Rejecting paths that take me to prestige, popularity or acceptance.

The biggest challenge of hermit life, I read, is living contentedly in the knowledge everybody thinks you're mad and useless. Having the humility to laugh at the bad teeth and bad temper jokes when, actually, you're staring the realities of life full in the face, at the spiritual coalface.

Seriously, though, if I disappear, you DO need to come looking.....

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