Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Hermits

One sometimes hears people talking as if hermits gave up all place in society; such people clearly have not studied the history of hermits, which provides endless counterexamples to this false notion. You might as well say that you temporarily give up your whole place in society by walking by yourself for an hour in quiet reflection. The hermit is not an exile from all society; how many are the words that have been brought back from the solitude of hermits! How many striking thoughts we owe to hermits, of which we would have never known if they had wholly severed themselves from society, if they had no role in society! When we look at it closely, we see that the very idea is incoherent. Being a hermit is a role in society. As for individuals, so for society a little thoughtful withdrawal into solitude can be good. Throughout the world hermits have been society's quiet introspection. They are the part of society that has left off action in order to reflect. Reflective introspection can drive you crazy. But sometimes our best thoughts are born of it.

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