The hermit, huddled on the hill,
Tries, by exercise of will,
To do away with loneliness.
Yet he is a hermit still.
His aged hands, beridged by time,
Are streaked with blood, and dust, and grime.
(The cuts are wrapped without success.)
All this the fruit of his weary climb.
Down there, the village whence he came,
Where once, a woman knew his name…
But all of that was long ago..
And yet, it matters, just the same..
Now time and tide have passed him by,
And he hasn’t tear enough to cry.
Henceforward he will stay away,
He wants them all to wonder why.
The concept of a hermit seems to have faded from the public consciousness. When I wrote the poem above ( I was 19 or 20) , the image of a hermit — always male, always dressed in rags — who lived in a cave, apart from society, was quite common. My poem imagined a man who had separated himself from the world because he was disappointed in love, but the more common concept of a hermit was of someone who had withdrawn from the world to ponder the secrets of the Universe. The hermit was thought of as a kind of Oracle, to which a pilgrimage could be made to find answers to Life’s most pressing questions.
So why has the hermit faded from our imaginations? Part of the answer is the Internet — Google is a kind of Oracle; all questions can be answered (or appear to be answered) by a Google search.
Another part of the answer is, I think, mankind’s evolving consciousness. There is a theory that our consciousness is evolving rapidly — rapidly, that is, in evolutionary terms. The idea is that, say, a thousand years ago or so, mankind thought with a kind of hive mentality; everyone knew their place in the system. Then, as the functions of our left and right brains became more distinct, we began to think for ourselves. The obvious next evolutionary step is for us to begin to be able to read each other’s minds. We have all experienced the sense that certain other people seem to know what we are thinking before we say it, and we should get used to that feeling; it will only get stronger as we continue to evolve.
In short, then, we don’t need hermits because we have the Internet. And, soon, we won’t need the Internet because we have each other.