Not much has been reported (deliberately) in this blog on the story of Christopher Knight, the “hermit” of Maine who survived stealing food from campsites and residencies for 27 years until being caught by authorities and gone through court trial. The first book on the subject has appeared: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, by journalist Michael Finkel. A brief but useful review in the New Republic makes it easy for the genuine student of eremitism to bypass both the book and the story, where others will take Knight to indeed be a hermit.
The first telling observation by the reviewer is the parasitic relationship between Knight and “civilization,” the desire for solitude coupled with a desire for sloth, egoism, active hostility and near sadism towards people, the latter being the psychological torment inflicted on campers and residents suffering break-ins and the baffling theft of only selected items from their residences and campsites, losing all peace and wondering if someone was spying on them, plotting a more sinister assault. As Finkel notes, “Knight…fled the modern world only to live off of the fat of it.”
As the reviewer points out, we want hermits to be St. Antony, or at least Thoreau, someone who can distill wisdom from their experience so that others may share it. Knight is the opposite, the anti-hermit, the anti-Thoreau, who scoffs at the notion of hermit wisdom, who scorns the idealization. Knight demonstrates the dark side of eremitism, the doppelganger, the Yaldabaoth, and will have confused many by the time his story is exhausted.