To Hermit or Not to Hermit

Feeling the urge to retreat from the human fray into a spiritual hermitage?

In this time of corona virus quarantines, social distancing and self isolation, the news and social media are overflowing with people sharing stories — emotionally loaded and poignant stories — about how unbearable a hardship it is to be alone, separated from their coworkers, friends, neighbors and family. I believe them completely, and sympathize with the upset — and even anguish — they feel, but I have to admit: it is entirely alien to me. 

I do dislike being in lockdown, no doubt. But that’s because I love being outdoors and miss being able to walk along the river or the beach or amble through city streets. I’ve always required movement to process and mediate the energy I conduct. And now I’m stuck in my studio apartment. 

I miss the outdoors. But I don’t miss people. For me, in the absence of people, there is an absolute silence. It’s not like being alone with myself. I always rather enjoyed my own company, but at that time I also provided my own company: with my own thoughts and what people would call a rich inner life. That’s gone, and now there is Silence.

I suspect this silence is felt by everyone. In my experience, most people find it utterly crushing and terrifying.

Spiritual marketing has married the concept of Silence with Peace. This is true when you take Silence in minute doses, but Silence is powerful, and as we know, small doses of a poison can cure you. But you’ve got to stay at the micro dose level. Think: homeopathic Silence. You don’t just grab the bottle and chug. 

Unless…you are immune to the poison of Silence.

Those of us who are immune can become quite addicted to it. The more we take of it, the more it seems like the only thing in the world that makes any sense. The more we take of it, the more the signal of the human world recedes from the band of frequencies we can pick up, becomes alien and abstract. 

***

When I woke up, my personality went dormant. I actually thought it vanished, but later I realized it had just become entirely powered down from disuse. It didn’t bother me at first, in fact, I felt liberated. Not that there was anything wrong with my personality. It was pretty top shelf, if I do say so myself. 

After some time, I realized the hilarious impossibility of interacting with people without the mediation of a Synthetic Self.

Yes, I, myself, am completely liberated from the Synth. Or, what do you like to call it, the Ego? That blasted thing that we’re always tripping over on the way to Enlightenment?

Can I get a round of applause? A “well done, you!”? It is really something. I won’t downplay the significance of it. 

But it’s also a huge problem. It’s fine to be liberated from the Synth, in that you no longer believe you are the Synth. You see, the Synth isn’t the problem. Your Ego isn’t the problem. It’s a tool, a gadget, a bit of tech. And a rather useful bit of tech, at that. Indispensable, really. But if you went around believing you were your mobile phone and that app notifications were your own thoughts, and your Camera Roll was your actual life…well, you can see why some spiritual traditions make getting rid of the Ego Job #1

But when you see your Synth and you know (not intellectually, but directly and tangibly and simply) that it is just this bit of tech, then your Synth ceases to be a Big Problem. 

Except that…it is. You’re still tripping on it, but backwards, if you will. Because other people pretty much exclusively interact with each other through their Synths. And if you show up to the party without one, things can get pretty weird. 

***

You try stuff out. You try being alone. That’s fine, that feels comfortable. When people aren’t right in front of you, either physically or digitally, they are gone. Really gone. You don’t keep a menagerie of mental figurines of these people in your mind or in your energy field. They are gone. You are alone, which is to say, you  melt into everything. You melt into all the tasks of your day, big and small. You move into and through your day. It’s not ecstatic or anything. It’s just, singular

And then, maybe you try People for a while. You meet with friends, go to a party or some kind of meetup. Or maybe it’s not even that ambitious. Maybe you just talk to a salesperson who is helping you chose a product, or the grocery store clerk who is making some conversation. And you realize You Are Not Yourself. And it’s weird. And sometimes you get away with it, sometimes it’s not too weird, but often it is. 

Your timing is off. You’re too loud or too quiet. You’re too intense. You don’t blink enough. You’re too direct. You don’t get jokes or sarcasm anymore (you really just don’t). You don’t relate to people’s feelings or motivations. You don’t get the point of…any of it

You feel like an alien pretending to be human. 

***

Well, you still have something to give, don’t you? Not to anyone in particular, but to people in general. To the human race. An impulse to Do Good. After all, you’re still here, in the bullpen — not raptured out to Nirvana just yet. At the very core of your being, there is an immense pulse of goodwill. Again, not toward anyone in particular. 

So you try to Do Good for a while. It leads you to strange situations and decidedly mixed results. How did your Helping People Initiative lead you to these Close Encounters with the confused or deranged or unstable or chronically indifferent? Because no matter how much you intend to Do Good for people in general, you will always end up in some dark airless cupboard with someone in particular.

Note to self: need a body guard and gatekeeper. 

***

“You’re an actor, not a hermit,” says my astrologer, trying to let me down gently. An actor? What?

By this he means: a person of action. And in some respects also, a person on stage. He says this life I’ve come to build something that will last long after I’m gone. Something durable, that will be a shelter and a light for many. 

Hi, my name is Amara. I’m a Silence Addict. Is there an anonymous support group out there for us? Do I need to start one?

He goes on to say I’m a Communicator. And not just a blah blah blah talker. Or even a writer. But someone who has a blueprint so pure and so powerful, it is transmitted through my voice, through my gaze, through my touch. Hell, I bet it’s even baked right into my pies! (butter and lard in the pastry…always)

This is part of my Essential Nature this life. 

***

Have you ever tried to stand in the way of your Essential Nature? Yeah, I know. You have. So dumb. Such a waste of time, tears, money. Spiritual Marketing has married the idea of expressing your Essential Nature with finding your purpose, being joyful and living your best life. Finally, Doing You.

Who are these Spiritual Marketers, anyway? How do they always get it so wrong? Fidelity to your Essential Nature can sometimes be the exact opposite of what you actually want to do, the exact opposite of Following Your Bliss. 

***

A blueprint comes with limitations. By its nature, it quietly defies the affirmation that you can be anything you want to be. You are free to try, of course. You’re always free to do that. You can build a treehouse or an ice skating rink on a foundation laid for a cathedral. 

***

My Synth is broken. It used to breeze me through life so easily, so gracefully and with impeccable style. It took me a long time to even figure out how to power it back up again. I thought that was the Big Challenge. But no, it was just the beginning.

My Synth doesn’t work the way it used to. It used to be effortless. Hell, it used to be Me. I and the Synth were One. And now just to do simple things I need to actually figure out how to move the levers, and push the right buttons at the right times. It’s like learning to drive a manual transmission. It’s like suddenly having to manage the autonomic functions of the body: remember to breathe, now beat this chamber of the heart, now that, keep time, blink…and again.

The thing is, the Synth isn’t the kind of tech that can be powered down for any significant length of time. You can’t disengage your consciousness from the Synth, power it down, and then pick it back up again and start where you left off. Synths need to be continuously fed, updated. They are part of a feedback loop that can’t be interrupted without real consequences.

If yours got catastrophically powered down, you’ll need to not only power it up again — you’ll need to rebuild it. You don’t just go back to Being Yourself. You’ll need to re-version your Synth, and this takes a lot of work. It’s kind of like having a part time job or an engrossing hobby.

***

I’ve just had an Encounter with my neighbor and her husband. I ran into them as I walked past a cafe. “Amara!” My name sounds like an alarm. Hearing my name called unexpectedly means I have to quickly engage the Synth…when I wasn’t expecting to. 

I turn and smile in the direction of the Alarm, then walk toward it. They’re speaking, but there’s a lag. It takes a moment to switch into language processing, so I have missed the first bit. But I’m used to that, so I continue smiling and nod a little bit. This is an excellent strategy because it is subtle, which is warm and encouraging, but it’s too subtle to be read as an actual affirmative. 

Now I quickly activate Small Talk Mode. This is the hardest for me to operate, but necessary in all interactions. It can’t be skipped. We say some things that have no meaning, and then He asks me if I want coffee. I tell him I’ve already had coffee. Then he asks me if I want some tea.  I tell him I normally don’t drink tea until after 2 in the afternoon. 

I sense it’s not going smoothly, but I can’t pinpoint where the problem is, where I need to make an adjustment. He pauses, and asks me what I drink when I’m not drinking coffee or tea, between those times of day. I answer that I drink water. This is getting weird. I can feel it, but I don’t understand why.

Then he says, would you like to sit and drink some water with us?

***

I’m back at home, after drinking water for 30 minutes and chatting with my neighbors. I analyze the interaction, as I do with all interactions that register as Buggy. I run through it, frame by frame, placing a mental marker where the machinery got jammed, things didn’t go right. Then I look at each of those points where the system failed and I make adjustments toward a more favorable outcome in the future. 

This is debugging. Technology has bugs, places where the coding is weak, the logic is weak, or an entire system needs to be upgraded. This is work, it’s constant work. Just as you can’t expect to fire up a twenty year old computer and run modern programs on it, your Synth needs constant debugging, maintenance, testing, upgrades. 

It’s always needed these things. It’s not like your Synth is suddenly more high maintenance than it was before. It’s just that before, certain functions were automated and you mostly operated on factory settings. Your Synth always demanded lots of your energy, but you provided it unconsciously, by being plugged into it during all waking hours. 

***

There is no chance of returning to a previous version of the Synth. I’m rebuilding it, and naturally it will be different. Problems — comical and sad problems — arise from expecting the resurrection of a previous version. 

Perhaps you were really good at certain things, and you no longer are. There is absolutely no explanation for why your previous strengths and abilities are no longer in the current version. Trying to work a Lazarus can fail pretty spectacularly. Failing to adjust and move on can buy you a timeshare in Limbo Land. 

And the reaction to this? Maybe I should be a hermit. Maybe I’m meant to withdraw. After all, that’s where I feel most at ease. With the sky, with the birds, with the plants and with my three pet goats (yes, pet goats were part of my Limbo Land Hermit Plan).

***

Hermits…gotta hermit. Not as a reaction to a buggy Synth. Not as a response to failing at resurrecting a previous version of your Synth once you get the damn thing fired up again. Not because it’s just easier than engaging in the Human Matrix.

Being a hermit is not a reaction to anything. If you have the signature of a recluse, then that is what you are. There are no Pros and Cons or should I be or it would be easier or why don’t I just… What are the Pros and Cons of being gay? Or…are you just gay — hence that is how you will live your life? It’s not a decision or some kind of lifestyle choice or a reaction to too many failed hetero relationships. You are the thing, and so your life conforms. 

If you take the path of being a hermit as a reaction to the difficulties of Post Awakening Synth Operation, then you’re not really being a hermit…you’re just hanging out in the Hermit Village in Limbo Land. 

It may indeed be more peaceful and easier for a while. But unlike a true hermit in his actual real life hermitage, you’ll always have this weird feeling…and you may not even be able to place it, figure out what it is. 

Maybe one day you’ll realize you’ve taken up residence in the Hermit Village of a theme park called Limbo Land. It even comes with three goats because  you bought the deluxe package. 

***

I don’t have three goats. I really like goats and I love the idea of having three goats, but I’m not sure if my life will take that shape. I did have all the other features of my preferred hermitage. I spent nearly a decade in seclusion and it was beautiful. It was easier. I had a garden and I was surrounded by nature and most importantly, I went for long stretches without having to speak to anyone. Days blended into years and I kept time only by the moon and by the seasons in my garden, and by the migrating birds that appeared at my feeder in the morning.

It was beautiful, and I almost went all in. I almost got the goats. But something in me always felt something was not quite right. It was the tiniest sliver of a feeling, that eventually grew into something that couldn’t be ignored. Because even though everything looked perfect, I was not in a true hermitage. I can’t be in a true hermitage, because I am not a true hermit. So instead I inhabited a very enviable, beautiful, desirable replica. In Limbo Land.

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