How Hermit-Like Are You?

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Coping, Human Thinking and Behavior, Mental health problems, Personality | 0 comments

How Hermit-Like Are You?
I just read a brilliant biography of a hermit, “The Stranger in the Woods,” by Michael Finkel. The hermit, Chris Knight, lived in the Maine woods alone for 27 years. No house, no medical care. How he survived the winters I will never understand. 

The book describes a long history of famous occasional hermits, including Siddhartha, Lao-tzu, Jesus, and Henry David Thoreau. I was surprised to read that for a few decades in England it was fashionable for rich folks to employ a hermit to live on their property. 

Hermits have often been considered wise. People have sought them out for advice and for clues about the meaning of life.

Chris Knight gave no advice. In 27 years he said only a few words total to other humans he stumbled upon in the woods. He lived by stealing food and other items from summer cabins when no one was around. His hermit days ended only when he was caught burglarizing and jailed. 

Amazingly, Chris never told any of his many family members that he intended to go away.  He just disappeared. 

What makes a person become a hermit? 

The book puts hermits in one of two main categories: protesters, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  who dislike the world of humans, and religious zealots such as the Christian anchorites, who were determined to connect with God without distractions from other people.  

 Chris Knight fits best in the category of disliking humans. Chris called Thoreau a dilettante, If we want to put Chris into a diagnostic category, I would focus on schizoid personality disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Chris might put us in a category of trouble-making life forms.

Oddly, there is an association of hermits. I am not sure why a real hermit would join an association. Chris had no interest in it.

Do you have any elements of a hermit in you, such as becoming overstimulated by a large amount of social interaction? What keeps you from going strongly in the direction of a hermit lifestyle?

For me, I see the flaws in humanity but also the good. I do not see any benefit in living like a hermit, especially when that life is close to the edge. In that regard, Chris must have come close to starving or freezing to death many times. I salute him for how tough and resourceful he was. I do not salute him for all the stealing. He took, but he did not give. 

Most of us adjust our lifestyle so we have about as much interaction with others as we want. We can take breaks from humanity at times and throw ourselves into the drama of social life at other times. 


Photo by Will Myers on Unsplash


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