"From Diogenes the Cynic (4th century bc) living in his
wine-jar (not barrel) to the ascetics of the late Roman world atop their pillars, many
ancients argued that not being valued by society was the only way to live. Diogenes
rejects the concept of society tout court, seeing true values and moral
standards only in animals, primitive man, barbarians and the gods. The Epicurean Roman
philosopher Lucretius (1st century bc) points out how sweet it is to remain immune to the
mad passions that drive the majority to spend their life competing against each other,
striving for status, struggling night and day to emerge top of the heap. Even the Stoic
thinker Seneca the younger (1st century ad), who was for a time an adviser to Nero and as
a Stoic was committed to the idea of public service for the public good, seems to think
that withdrawal into a private life of study can be justified."
"Asceticism - Greek askÍsis, training, practice, routine, the belief
that humans had an almost limitless potential for spiritual development through
exercises designed to transform the personality - had had a long pagan history
before it became associated with Christianity. Among pagans, however, it was a practice
for the educated rich, a lifestyle statement they could afford to
At one time it was considered the epitome of fashion to have your very own hermit
living on your European estate. Only the rich could afford a hermit, but isnt that
the point? Keeping up with the Joneses was not an option for the rabble of the world.
"But for Christians, anyone of any class could renounce the world, the flesh and
the Devil, or sell all that they had and give to the poor; hence the hermit (Greek
erÍmos, solitary) and the fascination with the desert, the powerful symbol of
the renunciation of man as a social and civilised being."
J. M. Besse describes hermits in The Catholic Encyclopedia:
"Eremites, "inhabitants of a desert", from the Greek eremos),
also called anchorites, were men who fled the society of their fellow-men to dwell alone
in retirement. Not all of them, however, sought so complete a solitude as to avoid
absolutely any intercourse with their fellow-men. Some took a companion with them,
generally a disciple; others remained close to inhabited places, from which they procured
Elias is considered the precursor of the hermits in the Old Testament.
St. John the Baptist lived like them in the desert. Christ, too, led this kind of life
when he retired into the mountains. But the eremitic life proper really begins only in the
time of the persecutions
Some monasteries had isolated cells close by, where those
religious who were judged capable of living in solitude might retire
Those who felt
the want of solitude were advised to reside near an oratory or a monastic church. The
councils and the monastic rules did not encourage those who were desirous of leading an
Society--in this case the Church--did not approve of square pegs in round holes.
"The widespread relaxation of monastic discipline drove St. Odo, the great apostle
of reform in the sixth century, into the solitude of the forest. The religious fervour of
the succeeding age produced many hermits. But to guard against the serious dangers of this
kind of life, monastic institutes were founded that combined the advantages of solitude
with the guidance of a superior and the protection of a rule."
Hermitages became monasteries. It was much easier to control these square pegs if they
were sequestered inside four walls, under the watchful eye of the Church.
"[T]here still continued to be a large number of isolated hermits, and an attempt
was made to form them into congregations having a fixed rule and a responsible
We see, therefore, that the Church has always been anxious to form the
hermits into communities. Nevertheless, many preferred their independence and their
solitude. They were numerous in Italy, Spain, France, and Flanders in the seventeenth
century. Benedict XIII and Urban VIII took measures to prevent the abuses likely to arise
from too great independence."
Note that the Church--the dominant social group--"took measures to prevent the
abuses likely to arise from too great independence." The modern equivalent would
be measures taken by the State--the current dominant social group--to prevent abuses (read
as non-conformance with State norms) by fringe groups, such as tax protesters or those at
Ruby Ridge and Waco. The issue is maintaining control and it is always maintained the
same way--by force.
The definition of society includes all groups, but the dominant social group
still persecutes fringe groups. Why? One could easily assume that all social groups should
be equal, but history teaches us that the dominant social group is more equal than the
rest. Historically, this was the Church, but today it is the State. While the Church only
required tithing, the State now demands 40% or more, under threat of imprisonment for
failure to comply. This is social progress?
Society is many things, but mostly it is overrated. It displays a warped sense of
values and it rewards the wrong things. It encourages self-destructive behavior while
discouraging and penalizing productive behavior. It often portrays black as white and
expects you to believe it. It fosters divisive classes that are used to enslave one
segment of the population at the expense of another. It worships the dominant social group
while persecuting fringe groups. It results in tyranny through the perpetual quest for
power, influence, and control over others. It produces perverted manifestations; oxymorons
like free press, political correctness, situational ethics, voluntary income tax, and
minimum wage. It values youth and beauty while dismissing age and experience.
Peter Jones summarizes, "It is, apparently, a problem for many males that when
they retire they feel dissatisfied because society does not value them any
more. It is hard to see what society as such can actually do about this, but
it raises the question why anyone should want to be valued by society
Retire to your
study; become a hermit; abjure sex; go to church - unlikely advice for the retired,
perhaps, but anything must be preferable to pleading abjectly with society to
I couldnt agree more. Society will never value the retired because society abhors
free men--and retired men arent wage slaves for the State. They are no longer
available as daily sources of supply for the vampires of society. They are free to come
and go as they please. I think everyone should retire early, at least once.
Society has taken its lumps over the years, and rightly so. Heres a
bakers dozen of truths that support my position:
"Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires
them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things." - Russell Baker
"The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours
is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants." - Gen. Omar N. Bradley
The best things in life arent things. - Art Buchwald
"We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork." -
"We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the
mental institution of the universe." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"It's a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to
be a decent man." - David Harris
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick
society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
"Civilization is unbearable, but it is less unbearable at the top." - Timothy
"Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers." - Mignon
"Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man
is kept imprisoned." - Swami Nirmalananda
"How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes,
frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?" - Paul Sweeney
"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."
- Lily Tomlin
"What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it
on?" - Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau understood completely that society is overrated at best; it should not be
celebrated, it should be spurned, based solely on its results. Hurrah! for the few
remaining hermits, they are the last of a noble breed. They alone understand what it means
to be free of societys chains. It may already be too late for the rest of us.
"Published originally at EtherZone.com :
republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."