A brief New York Times interview with Bill Porter, author of Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits and the most recent book Yellow River Odyssey.
For decades, Porter had been an indigent translator and commentator of ancient Chinese texts, but now that his books (chiefly about historical China and conversations with people he encounters in his travels) are being sold in Chinese translation in China to great popular reception, Porter is economically better off.
He plans to retire after one last book.
The story of Bernard Wheatley (1919-1991) is notable because he was a black American and a physician, but left his career and contacts to move to Hawaii and become a hermit. He cited Jesus and Buddha as his main inspirations, but other psychological motives underlie his decision to quit society and live in solitude. Wheatley’s life is described in an article in Ebony Magazine, December, 1959, reprinted by Hermitary from Google Books.
Last year, 22 year old Greg Hindy embarked on a solitary year-long walk across the United States from his native New Hampshire to California, in silence. His journey is described in a Boston Globe article, which links to Greg’s website and Facebook pages maintained by his supportive father. The trek is an expression of performance art (Hindy’s chief possession being a large-format camera for documenting what he encounters), but also an experiment in mindfulness and meditation.
Many web sources are reporting this news item concerning students in a psychology experiment at the University of Virginia. In a version from ScienceAlert of Australia/New Zealand, the article is titled and subtitled: “People prefer electric shocks to quality alone time: Scientists reveal that being left alone with your thoughts is deeply unpleasant.” The Washington Post story title is: “Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts.” The original announcement in EurekaAlert reports:
Most people are just not comfortable in their own heads, according to a new psychological investigation led by the University of Virginia.
The investigation found that most would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts, said the researchers, whose findings will be published July 4 in the journal Science.
In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.
URL: EurekaAlert – http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/uov-dsi063014.php
ScienceAlert – http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140507-25820.html
Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/07/03/most-men-would-rather-shock-themselves-than-be-alone-with-their-thoughts/