How Hermit-Like Are You?

University of New England

I just read a brilliant biography of a hermit, “The Stranger in the Woods,” by Michael Finkel. The hermit, Chris Knight, lived in the Maine woods alone for 27 years. No house, no medical care. How he survived the winters I will never understand.

The book describes a long history of famous occasional hermits, including Siddhartha, Lao-tzu, Jesus, and Henry David Thoreau. I was surprised to read that for a few decades in England it was fashionable for rich folks to employ a hermit to live on their property.

Hermits have often been considered wise. People have sought them out for advice and for clues about the meaning of life.

Chris Knight gave no advice. In 27 years he said only a few words total to other humans he stumbled upon in the woods. He lived by stealing food and other items from summer cabins when no one was around. His hermit days ended only when he was caught burglarizing and jailed.

Amazingly, Chris never told any of his many family members that he intended to go away. He just disappeared.

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