Sentiment and hermitsIn his poem “Old Age,” the poet Ou Yang Hsui (1007-1072) tells briefly of the burdens of getting sick when old: dry, dull eyes, aches, a fuzzy brain dull and forgetful.When I was young I liked to read. Now I am too old to make the effort. Then, too, If I come across something interesting I have no one to talk to about it.In theory, a solitary ought not to miss another’s presence but Ou Yang Hsui’s expression of loneliness is not unusual even among the worldly. Nor is a hermit immune to sentiment.Kenneth Rexroth notes that in fact the Chinese Tang poets inclined to sentiment, especially with advancing age. The poets, male and female, thought of their forties as old age, referring to the first gray hair. By late forties, the course of their days was uncertain, and by fifty the end seemed near. Perhaps given the vagaries of life expectancy in antiquity, this sentiment was not unjustified. Studies of life expectancy in past centuries revised longevity based on survival into adulthood, so that older age was not infrequent, but the poets preferred a different criteria.When the famous recluse Tu Fu (712-770) visited retired scholar Wei Pa, he reflected:We sit here together in the candle light.How much longer will our prime last?Our temple are already grey.I visit my old friendsHalf of them ave become ghosts.Fear and sorrow choke me and burn my bowels
” Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.”
When I came home, Kaybee called under Saf’s instruction to ask me to come visit and I did.
But now I’m home. In this week leading to the anniversary of his death and I feel like vomiting. I feel wretched. That path I relocated yesterday is the only one that will bring me through this period. Passionate love is not always gentle. I am tormented. I writhe and twist and collapse into weeping.
I don’t see why I only got 7 years of Iz and the rest of my adulthood is a long and lonely path. He was good for me and now I remain lost. Lost and unequipped .
I wanted more time with him.
I wanted a loving life.
The only ones who ever miss me now are the Little Ones.
But, as Campbell puts it:
Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required. So it is that sometimes the predicament following obstinate refusal of the call proves to be the occasion of a providential revelation of some unsuspected principle of release.
And here, precisely, will be found the historical hermits, though Campbell footnotes Otto Rank’s preferred figure of the productive artist as this model. Artist or hermit-poet, hermit-meditator, etc., the figure now transcends even the run-a-day social figure and becomes a new category of hero. Campbell elaborates on the mental process.
Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images. The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete (neurosis, psychosis: the plight of the spellbound Daphne); but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost super-human degree of self-consciousness and masterful control. This is a basic principle of Indian disciplines of yoga. It has been the way, also, of many creative spirits in the West. It cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as yet unknown demand of some waiting void within: a kind of total strike, or rejection of the offered terms of life, as a result of which some power of transformation carries the problem to a plane of new magnitudes, where it is suddenly and finally resolved.