Perspectives on silence

The US public radio program “To The Best Of Our Knowledge” (TTBOOK) recently repeated an hour-long segment on silence titled “Taking Comfort in the Sound of Silence.” The program features several segments, the descriptions below are from the program.

These versions of silence are not explicitly eremitic but are certainly interesting applications. Norwegian writer and adventurer Erling Kagge wrote of his South Pole experience in Alone to the South Pole (1993). He has written a 2016 book Silence in the Age of Noise and, most recently, Walking: One Step At A Time, both recommended to Hermitary readers. The role of silence in the works of John Cage have been addressed here:

The Contemplative Silence of A Long Cold Journey
In 1993, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge made history by becoming the first person to cross Antarctica alone. He was by himself for fifty days and during his trek, he learned a lot about the power of silence and the importance of making time for it in our noisy, hectic lives.

A Nature Preserve For The Quiet Of Nature

If you’re looking for silence here in the U.S., you might want to visit “One Square Inch of Silence.” It’s a spot inside the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State’s Olympic National Park. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton created it, as part of his life mission to record the sound of silence.

The Volume of Absolute Silence
The world is getting noisier and it’s hurting us. When George Mickelson Foy got worried about all of the toxic noise in his life, he set on a quest for absolute silence.

The Tale of A Mute Piano Performance
John Cage’s “4’33” was first performed on August 29th, 1952, by pianist David Tudor. He came out on stage, sat at the piano, and did not play. The audience was not impressed. Kyle Gann tells the story in “No Such Thing as Silence.”

A Silent Soliloquy From The World’s Greatest Mime
For more than 60 years, the great French mime Marcel Marceau dominated stages around the world without ever saying a word. Shawn Wen documents Marceau’s story in a book-length essay called “A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause.”

The Pauses Between Chords of Iconic Rock and Roll
For author Jennifer Egan — whose novel “A Visit From The Goon Squad” documents the inner life of lifelong rock and roll stars—the pauses in rock ballads might say as much or more than the riffs.


Japanese island hermit removed

The 82-year old Japanese hermit Nasafumi Nagasaki, living on a deserted island for 29 years, was first noted in this blog in March 2014. is the first source with an update.

Nasafumi Nagasaki became famous as the “naked” hermit because the island of Sotobanri is deserted, and the loss of many of his possessions in a typhoon convinced him to go about without clothes. His intended two-year stay became 29 years. He received occasional visitors, chiefly curious Western media, and unknown friends bringing supplies, though he foraged and built his own homestead. In a visit, island-watcher Alvaro Cerezo learned from Nagasaki how passionate the latter was about staying on the island and dying there. Nagasaki told him: “In civilisation people treated me like an idiot and made me feel like one. On this island I don’t feel like that.” … “Here, on the island I don’t do what people tell me to do, I just follow nature’s rules. You can’t dominate nature so you have to obey it completely.”

But suddenly Nagasaki is no longer on his beloved island. He was apparently observed by an island passerby to be weak and sick and he was removed by authorities to the nearest city of Nishigaki, where he now lives in government housing. He was, perhaps, temporarily ill, but then fully recovered, nevertheless authorities will not allow him to return.

Multiple URLs use this original source:

Jeannie, “Lady Hermit of Cornwall”

Not just a local historical piece but of wider interest is the story of the “Lady Hermit of the Cornish cliffs” of England. The article is from the CornwellLve website. Here is opening text:

Its one of the strangest stories to emerge from 20th century Cornwall – the rich, educated, young Russian woman who was known across the county as the “Lady Hermit of the Cornish cliffs”.

So unusual a sight was Jeannie Schmolivitz, who made her home in caves in west Cornwall and lived on blackberries, that she spooked many a local into thinking she was a ghost.

Jeannie became a media star of the day, with national and international newspapers reporting her story, which took in a broken heart, madness, arrests, incarceration, daring escape and a final “rescue” which took her from Cornwall back to Russia.

Jeannie Schmolivtz (her surname could also have been Schmulewitz) became a sensation as the 1900s dawned, though her story is now largely forgotten.


Bill Porter update

Update on Bill Porter — translator of Chinese and Buddhist classics and China traveler, and author of Road to Heaven: Encounters With Chinese Hermits — in, titled “Drawn in the beauty of solitude – a life inspired by Chinese poetry.” Porter’s most recent visit to China centered around his latest book, Paradise of the Mind, on ancient poet Tao Yuanming or Tao Chien. The article reviews Porter’s travels and reflections, concluding:

Considering his age, Porter [he is 75] has decided to settle down and stop his wanderings. Together with some friends, he is preparing to open a meditation center in Seattle.

“The best things in life are things that can make the world stop,” he says. “I found it in Chinese culture, and I would like to share that.”


Mauro Morandi, Italian hermit

Mother Nature Network ofers an article about Mauro Morandi, age 79, who has spent the last 30 years alone on the deserted Italian island of Budelli near Sardinia. Morandi uses solar energy, makes furniture from driftwood, and shares photos of the natural beauty of the place on his Facebook account. He came to the island because “I was very angry with a society that does not take into consideration the individual, but only runs for power and money … We must try to see the beauty to the end, and then we will respect nature and perhaps this world will be saved.” Includes some of the photos.


Solitary occupations enjoyed

Mainstream media is more carefully distinguishing solitude or aloneness from loneliness. An article in The Guardian titled “How To Be Alone: ‘I feel most alive when I’m with my own thoughts’ ” interviews five people with solitary occupations — fire tower officer, expedition doctor, wildlife photographer, long-distance lorry (truck) driver, and land ranger — on how they enjoy solitude.


Sr. Miriam, Polish hermit-nun

The Aleteia website features an article on Sister Miriam of the Cross, a Polish Carmelite hermit-nun who has not spoken for 16 years. Sister Miriam writes of her silence in a universal way:

“Is not the vow of silence against human nature? I pose this question to myself, too. Without a doubt, silence is so hard for our nature, also for me. However, human social life is possible thanks to a certain dialectic of silence and speaking, contemplation and engagement, breaking free from worldly desires and enjoying the world, etc. Therefore, the role of silence in interpersonal communication, in relationships, seems crucial and actually necessary for obtaining some harmony. It is communication that takes place within the human spirit, where mindfulness, gentleness, attentiveness to the other, warmth, and respect originate. There is a close correlation between silence and speaking, as all is born out of silence.”


Dobre Dobrev, Bulgarian hermit

The website Balkan Insight features an article on a hermit who raised money for church projects and achieved enormous popularity.

Bulgaria is grieving over the death of the urban legend, hermit and church benefactor Dobre Dobrev, who passed away on Tuesday at the amazing age of 103. … Born in 1914 in the village of Bailovo, 43 kilometers east of Sofia, he was famous for his ascetic lifestyle, long white beard and stooping figure.