Zhongnan hermits today

Sympathetic article titled “The sound of silence is the height of seclusion,” in China Daily, describes the contemporary hermits of the Zhongnan mountains. The hermits are Taoist and Buddhist. Li Jiwu, a researcher in religious studies at the Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences, “who has been studying the mountain’s hermit culture for five years, believes these reclusive people perform vital work on behalf of the society they’ve shunned, both by setting an example to others and by passing on the wisdom they’ve acquired.”

Quoting Li:

Although these people live far away from modern society, they are actually helping it. They’re like a mountain stream that brings fresh water down into the town – the water eventually reaches it one way or another.

The hermit culture has been associated with the mountain for so long that the local authorities and people are very supportive towards those setting up their mao peng [i.e., “grass hut”].

The authorities even allow hermits to live in an abandoned village located higher up the mountain. The villagers moved out in the 1990s as a part of a poverty alleviation program. The village accommodates about 16 hermits, and although they live close to each other, they rarely talk.

Not everyone can cope with the hardship and loneliness on the mountain, especially lay practitioners. I have seen many quit within weeks because there is always something they can’t let go, such as wealth or even the Internet. People should realize that it is not a getaway holiday. Being a hermit is a serious lifestyle choice.

URL: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-03/29/content_14936505.htm

NYT: Is silence going extinct?

The article writer joins a scientist in Alaska’s Denali National Park in search of silence and natural sound, with commentary on the status of silence and natural sound as components of wilderness and animal life. Remarks the scientist: “If you’re on foot and you choose to focus on the natural quality of the landscape, you’re completely immersed in nature; nothing else exists. Then a jet will go over, and it kind of breaks that flow of consciousness, that ecstatic moment.” Part of that natural quality and flow of consciousness is silence.

For more than 40 years, scientists have used radio telescopes to probe starry regions trillions of miles away for sounds of alien life. But only in the past five years or so have they been able to reliably record months-long stretches of audio in the wildernesses of Earth. … Indeed, though soundscape ecology has hardly begun, natural soundscapes already face a crisis. Humans have irrevocably altered the acoustics of the entire globe — and our racket continues to spread.

Article includes representative natural sounds of Denali National Park.

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/is-silence-going-extinct.html

UK short film “Hermit”

UK-based filmmaker Susannah Bragg has produced a half-hour short comedy film titled “Hermit,” described as:

a short fiction film about a young prodigy who, for the past 20 years, has woven fantastic stories of worldwide acclaim — from the confines of her room. However, on her 28th birthday, she runs out of ideas. Now, she must re-enter the world.

Welcome to Izzy Blue’s slightly surreal and off-kilter life. Come along with her as she tries to reconnect with her family and share in her fantastic adventures.

Unfortunately, fantasy and reality are not always as distinct — or as comprehensible — as Izzy would wish them to be. In fact, an increasingly widespread phenomenon in Japan, Hikikomori (“Shut-in’s”) soon will number up to a million.

FILM website & trailer: http://www.indiegogo.com/Hermit-3
ADDITIONAL TRAILER site: http://vimeo.com/36743409

British anchorite reflects

In an article in the Catholic Herald of the UK, a British nun describes her year as an anchoress. In the article — titled “How I became a medieval-style anchorite” — the anonymous author explains:

Before 2003 I thought that hermits were extinct — as dead as a Dodo. I had heard of some of the medieval hermit saints, but in the 21st century, in Britain, surely not.

Yet now I am an anchorite, as was Julian of Norwich, and for one precious year the bishop locked me in. I had a bed area, a shower room, an enclosed garden of 10 square feet, and my oratory with the wicket window opening into our chapel. I had stable doors, the top half being under my control, the lower half locked. I was a “prisoner of the Lord”: no radio, phone, or internet. It was a wonderful year, but due to us moving it could not be prolonged after the initial trial year.

The author usefully summarizes the activities of the historical hermit and the distinction between hermits, solitaries, recluses, and anchorites. She places the live of the anchorite in the perspective of her faith, and ends with the famous quote of Simeon the New Theologian:

Let me alone, sheltered in my cell.
Let me be with God, who alone is good.
Why should I move out of my cell?
Back to that which I left?
Let me be.
I want to cry and mourn over the days and nights I have wasted.

URL: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/2012/02/29/how-i-became-a-medieval-style-anchorite/