Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. – Psalm 55:6
“Do you ever wonder,” asked our younger daughter this week, in the midst of cynical adolescence, “whether we’re the only sane people on a planet of idiots?”
Yes, I’ve wondered that quite a bit. As a result I’ve decided I want to be a hermit when I grow up.
Oh wait, I’m already grown up. And I have a husband and two children whom I dearly love. OK, so I’ve decided that we’ll ALL become hermits when … er, when we grow up. Can you be hermits together, or does it require solitude?
This sneaking realization that being a hermit isn’t such a bad idea began years ago when our government became more and more intrusive, and this desire has been snowballing more recently until it’s reached the point where all four of us seriously wish we could ditch everything and live in a peaceful hermitage far away from societal problems. I call this the Hermit Syndrome.
So what do I mean by the Hermit Syndrome? Dictionary definitions aside, our mythical hermitage is a place where we’re not bothered by government bureaucrats meddling in our lives and telling us what to do. A place where we can raise our livestock and crops in peace. A place where we’re not blitzed on all sides with news stories of tragedies and terrorist attacks. A place where Big Brother isn’t spying on our computers, telephones, cars, or via overhead drones. A place where the IRS isn’t pointing a gun at our heads and telling us we have to shell out $10,000 a year for something we don’t want. A place where the fruits of our labor are ours to do with as we wish, rather than being forcibly confiscated and redistributed to ungrateful recipients to buy things we could never afford.
Doesn’t that sound like a paradise on earth to you?
Hermits have a long and honorable history, embracing everything from early religious desert-dwellers, monasteries (multiple hermits living together) and just people who prefer to shun society. Interestingly, history often portrays hermits (unless they’re crazy) as wise men whose advice is sought.
Loners were once associated with rugged individualists who were determined to do things through their own efforts. But today loners are more often associated with serial-killers-in-training. They are considered suspicious by a government determined to track everybody to the nth degree. Too often it’s easy to view those who long for solitude as a breeding ground for domestic terrorism.
But as an introvert, I think longing for a hermitage is a natural result of the plethora of bad news we hear on a daily basis. Everywhere we turn, it seems, the news is hideous. Rapes, murders, terrorist attacks, racial tension, debt ceilings, Obamacare, economic collapse … if it’s newsworthy, it’s bad news.
After the Boston Marathon bombings, no public celebration seems safe. After the Kenya mall terrorist attack, American malls were put on high alert. Every airplane is suspect; every trip on public transportation makes you wonder if the person next to you is hiding a bomb or poison gas. People, in general, are trouble.
So what’s a peace-loving housewife to do? Will running away solve anything? Ironically, we already live in a remote corner of a remote state with remote (truly remote) tracts of land where a person could get lost forever. Just off the top of my head, I can list a dozen spots where my family and I could settle and never see another human until we wished it.
But that wouldn’t solve anything, except perhaps offer a temporary respite. Running away won’t cure the debt crisis, or stabilize the dollar, or improve race relations, or stop terrorism. And it certainly won’t stop the government from visiting to see how you are doing or, more importantly, what you are doing. In fact, true story, I heard about someone who was living in a remote off-grid cabin who received a visit by a census worker, alerted to his existence through an overhead drone. In short, you can run, but you can’t hide.
Besides, if all good people ran away, there would be no one left to fight the good fight. It was Edmund Burke who said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” He’s right. Running away might make for a peaceful life for myself and my family, but it would be a temporary peace at best, because evil forces will continue to pummel our nation. Left unchecked, those evil forces may win.
They may win anyway – evil often does – but at least if I stay to fight the good fight, I can go to my reward knowing I did my best to check it.
Besides, I have to remind myself not to get too soured on people in general. Yes people can be evil, horrible, nasty, rotten, foul and loathsome. But people can also be joyous, creative, inspirational, loving and fun. Without people we would have no art, no music, no books. We would have missed out on tremendous accomplishments and creativity and amazing innovations.
And we would have missed out on meeting and interacting with so many people who truly love America, who understand what a unique and amazing and miraculous nation we have. If we hid ourselves away, we wouldn’t have the chance to join with patriotic folks in the necessary effort to change America’s disastrous course.
So I’ll put aside the desire for a hermitage and face facts. It was Barry Goldwater who said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
I guess I’ll leave the “moderation” to the true maniacs.