What are we to make of the death poem of Chogo, an eighteenth-century Japanese poet?
I long for people —
Then again I loath them:
end of autumn.
Because it is a death poem, is its inspiration that characteristic mood of serious sickness wherein one wants alternatively to be left alone and yet to be comforted? That is the sense he projects when he then writes: “end of autumn.” But perhaps the poem is an epitome of his life (about which almost nothing is known)? In this case, did Chogo pass a lifetime of desire and conformity with alternative periods of self-hatred for what others had done to him — or for what he had done to himself?
The solitary must understand his or her motives as clearly as possible. A standard image of the hermit (or better, the recluse) is of someone driven by social failures to live apart: sullen, resentful, and misanthropic. Let this not befall us or be our motive. Our desire for solitude may be mixed (nothing is unsullied) but by understanding and refining our motives through introspection and honesty we can avoid the darker emotional drive that makes of solitude an involuntary reaction to life and its circumstances, a reaction that can so easily sour the motive for solitude. Instead, in a nuanced way, we need to be able to say, like the Japanese poet Ryokan:
It is not that I dislike people
It is that I am so very tired of them.