How to be a Hermit - A Guide for Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows Hermit: a person living in seclusion; a recluse. hermitic, hermitical, hermitish, hermiticaly, hermit-like, hermitry, hermitship 1 “Some are born hermits, some achieve hermitship and some have hermitry thrust upon them.” (sorry, William) Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a man dressed in a brown shift blowing a musical pipe and banging a drum.Hello you. Welcome to the new normal, this socially distanced, isolated world of stay-at-homes. In recent times you’ve unexpectedly joined the ranks of the contemplatives, the solitaries, the enclosed orders, the hermits; some of you more willingly than others. For some of us, the natural born hermits, this current stay-at-home world of lockdown has been a blessing and a balm. Illustrated with a drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders. She has long hair and red cheeks and is drawn in the style of a medieval manuscript Natural born hermits come in a range of colours and flavours: Some of us are happiest completely alone. Others enjoy a tiny community of friends and family. Still others are quite sociable, but still need a lot of alone time in between the parties. Come with me into the world of the hermit, I hope you may at least be entertained and maybe find empathy for a different kind of mind. Illustrated with a black and white stylised drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders and a cartoon of an animal, possibly a dog. Both are drawn in the style of the middle ages.I want to take a moment to reflect on the awfulness of being alone against your will. For people who are forced into a life of seclusion because of physical illness or injury, poverty, old age and metal ill health, an enclosed, isolated life is not a joy but a torture. I urge you to seek out the involuntary loners, the unwilling recluses, the stay at home sick and give them some love; call them up, let them know you are thinking about them, offer help. Don’t leave anyone alone who needs companionship. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Two of the kings are holding hands. A Short History of the Hermit There have always been hermits. A Slightly Longer History of the Hermit Throughout history and across the world, people have wandered away from their villages, towns and cities to live alone as hermits. Many moved away to a place of loneliness and silence in order to hear what their God/s is/are saying to them. Others become hermits because they want to test themselves alone in the wilderness, or because they just cannot stand all that damn rackett of people and civilisation any longer! Illustrated with a drawing of a medieval castle and surrounding buildings on a hill. In the foreground a cloaked and hooded figure of an older man sits on the ground reading a book. His feet are bare. Most human beings really love to hang out in groups. It’s probably why we started with a couple of straw huts and now have mega cities. You can clearly see the human need to be with other people if you’ve ever parked in a totally empty car park and your return find one other car has arrived. It’s parked so close to you you can’t get your door open. (Yes this has happened to me. Yes I’m still annoyed about it.) While the hermit, or solitary, has always been looked at with some suspicion by the rest of humanity, like a magnet they have also drawn the crowds. To avoid society, hermits have been walled up in rooms, lived on top of towers, taken to caves in the mountains, but still the press of humanity has come, seeking the hermit’s wisdom,. Illustrated with an Orthordox Christian Icon painting taken from a medieval manuscript. A bearded mans’ head and shoulders can be seen coming out of a stylised tower in the middle of a lake. An white building can just be seen at the side of the lake. The area behind the man is painted gold. During the late 17th century, there arose a fashion amongst the decadent elite for  How to be a Hermit: The Rules (according to me) Number one: Be alone. If you can’t be alone, you’ll hate being a hermit. As a hermit, you must prefer to spend the majority of your time (say, 70%) without other human beings around. However, hermits are permitted (even expected) to keep unlimited company with gods, cats, dogs, chickens, imaginary space aliens, as they prefer. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a hooded and robed hermit sitting outside his hut looking at a man-shaped beast with the head of a wolf and huge claws on its fingers and toes. The beast seems to be talking to the hermit. Number two: Be interested For many, the whole point of being a hermit is being able to spend as much time as possible pursuing one’s area of interest/s without being interrupted by pesky people. Harsh, but true. Illustrated with a brightly coloured painting from a medieval manuscript of monk scribe seated at his writing table. The background of the image is gold. Number three: Be idle The life of a hermit is a life of contemplation. For religious hermits fervent and continuous prayer is the ideal. For the secular hermit active idleness, contemplative pondering of one’s special interests, should form a significant part of one’s daily round. Idleness and interests go, oddly, hand in hand. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a sleeping man dressed in medieval clothing. He has his chin in his hand and is wearing long pointed shoes that curl up at the toes. Number four: Be (somewhat) Organised There is a fine line between being a hermit and being completely out of your tree. The demarcation line is to be found in organisation. You cannot, as a hermit, let things go. Managing a diary for your infrequent social responsibilities, cleaning yourself and your hermitage relatively frequently, maintaining routines, these things will keep you on the right side of sanity. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a half naked man wearing a loin cloth and holding a tree branch n one hand. His other hand rests on a vase which has been upturned and seems to be spilling water or wine. Number five: Be (a little bit) Social People need people. This fundamental rule of life cannot be avoided, even for hermits. No one is 100% self sufficient; the greatest challenge for the hermit is balancing the need to be alone with the necessity to interact with people, to care for family, make a living, navigate society. It’s probably the hardest thing for hermits to get right and society could help by making more home-working available. Hermits everywhere are watching the outcome of lockdown and increased homeworking with deep interest. Being able to earn a living and not leave the home/hermitage would be life changing. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript. A woman in nun’s habit is visiting a hermit in his hut by a river. The hermit is dipping one toe into the water.4. Quiet: Hermits value silence. The ideal hermitage is on the mountain top or in the wooded valley. A beach hut in a lonely cove or an island croft. Not only are these places far from society, the intrusive and mechanical noises of modern life are replaced with the sigh of wind and song of birds. (There are hermits who enjoy loud noises and raucous music and the city din. They are rare and peculiar) 5. Noticing the small things: flowers, beetles, the smell of rain, the crusty pleasure of toast, etc. 6. Enjoying the big things: Trainspotting, star gazing, listening to the same song on repeat, talking to gods, sci fi box sets, online bookshops, MMU games etc.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.

Statement

…kruse is a neurodivergent, multidisciplinary artist and current BOM Fellow. …kruse works collaboratively with AuTCRONE, a semi-fictional digital/human cyborg from the year 2120.

Their practice explores the human and trans-human, informed by their divergent neurology, person-hood, gender expression, enhanced sensory input and communication difference.

Themes and interests include the climate crisis, identity, neurodivergence, ageing, disability, gender expression, isolation, communication, solitude and community.

 

End comment

For many neurodivergent and autistic people the need to stay at home during the Covid-19 crisis may have come as a welcome respite from ‘normal’ life. While we are missing beloved friends and family, we are at least not having to navigate the sometimes confusing and stressful world of work and social obligations that can make life extra difficult for us.

The things that most of my NT (neuro-typical) friends seem to be missing are things that I am greatly relieved to be relieved of; community activities, festivals, parties, shopping, crowds, social busyness. Even if autistic people do enjoy some of these things, they come with extra stressors, sensory and social, that NT people don’t have to deal with.

Conversely, the things that most people find difficult during this lockdown, solitude, isolation, only being able to meet others online, being confined to the home, hours or days spent not talking to another person, may actually make life less stressful for many neurodivergent people.

Personally, I’ve always secretly fancied being a  hermit, in the style of the 19th century garden hermits; wherein an artist, poet or philosopher would live in solitude in a rustic hermitage in the grounds of some aristocrat’s estate, writing in peace and solitude, occasionally visited by the gentry and consulted on matters artistic or philosophical. In recent years I have been working with people and organisations to make workplaces and galleries more inclusive and accessible to autistic people. I believe that there could be some positives coming out of this awful pandemic as organisations and employers see that working online is much more feasible than previously thought. Being able to work, socialise and access arts events online could do a lot to lessen the social stress that many autistic people have to cope with on a daily basis. Access to different working patterns, more flexible work times, homeworking and digital workplaces could all help to make access to work a reality for autistic people, who currently have one of the highest unemployment rates of any socially disabled group.

…kruse
May 2020

Image attribution for How To Be A Hermit by …kruse 2020

Pic 1: Bear and dancing horse from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 237v
Image taken from f. 237v of Lancelot du Lac.
Pic 2: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of of a dog? and a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3a: Three kings from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 258v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Image taken from f. 258v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’)
Pic 5: Image from page 105 of “A short history of engraving [and] etching : for the use of collectors and students; with full bibliography, classified list and index of engravers” (1908) Year: 1908 (1900s) Authors: Hind, Arthur Mayger, 1880-1957 Publisher: London : A. Constable
Pic 7: Luke of the Stylites (Menologion of Basil II).jpg Wikimedia Commons
Pic 8: A Mountainous River Landscape with a Hermit and a Chapel ca. 1570–83
Matthijs Bril the Younger, Met Museum
Pic 10: Devil and hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 113v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a devil and a hermit outside a hut. Image taken from f. 113v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’). Written in Latin.
Pic 11: Hermit from British Library Royal 14 E III, f. 6v
Detail of a miniature of the hermit writing at a desk. Image taken from f. 6v of Estoire del Saint Graal, La Queste del Saint Graal, Morte Artu.
Pic 12: Woman from British Library Sloane 748, f. 79v
Image taken from f. 79v of De caelo, De anima.
Pic 13: Image from British Library Harley 2506, f. 42v
Image taken from f. 42v of Phaenomena (also known as the Aratea).
Pic 14: Nun visiting hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 130v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a nun visiting a hermit. Image taken from f. 130v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’).
Pic 16: Tournament from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 225v
Miniature of trumpeters and jousters at the tournament, with a bas-de-page scene of hounds chasing a stag. Image taken from f. 225v of Lancelot du Lac.

 

Multidisciplinary artist …kruse was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary. Their piece How to be a Hermit: A Guide to Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows explores some of the pleasures that lockdown has afforded them as a neurodivergent person and aspiring hermit.

We recently redirected the focus of our next round of Engine Micro Bursaries (a go-and-see resource in previous years) towards evidence gathering around the impact on artists’ livelihoods caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented measures taken to slow the spread of the disease.


We invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. The 10 artists selected to receive a Micro Bursary of £250 are:

Dan Auluk

Ania Bas

Helen Garbett

Dion Kitson

… kruse

Taz Lovejoy

Joanne Masding

Demi Nandhra

Adam Neal

Emily Warner

Almost 60 applications were received and the panel were very impressed with the strength and quality of artists’ responses to and stories of the current crisis right across the region. We were by turns moved, saddened and uplifted by what we read and the decisions we had to make were very difficult.

We are grateful to our panel of selectors which included Melanie Pocock, Ikon Gallery; Hannah Taylor, Asylum Art Gallery; Adelaide Bannerman, International Curators Forum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; John Cussans, University of Worcester; Mike Layward, DASH and Glen Stoker, AirSpace Gallery.

Our website and social media accounts will be places to gather focus points including the impact on studio-based artists, on freelance curatorial activities, on practitioners based in rural contexts, on the student perspective, and on artists and curators who are commonly disadvantaged due to race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Each of the 10 artists will be supported to make and research within this unprecedented context. We will be sharing results of their work – be it video, text, audio, drawings, photography or other responses – on our website and social media channels over the next few weeks.

We recently invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. We are pleased to announce the 10 artists receiving support via our Engine Micro Bursaries scheme to share their stories.