The motive of the solitary has a strong parallel to the objective of the hermit (or monk) described by John Cassian in one of his Conferences. One of the first premises is not so much what the solitary does but whether others should know or become aware of the solitary’s “project,” of his or her conscious pursuit of solitude. Hence, when approaching the hermit Moses for his wisdom, John Cassian must admit that
We had known that he [Moses] had a very determined mind and that he would never throw open the gates of perfection except to those who longed for it in all faith and with chastened hearts, since this is certainly not something to be made known to the indifferent or to those whose interest is only lukewarm. This revelation can be made only to those longing for perfection. By handing it over to the unworthy or to begrudgers, he seemed to fear to do wrong or to run the risk of a betrayal.
This is a very important point for the solitary. While a professed religious in the modern world states his or her eremitism publicly (to the extent that a public even notices), the rest of us weave a solitary life that appears to the average onlooker as a quirk of personality, an affectation, or just a private penchant. (Hence the nasty remark of Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary that “A hermit is someone who engages in vice, but privately.”)
The “private little room” all to oneself, as Montaigne described the mental reserve of the solitary who intersects with the crowd, is jealously guarded as a haven, resource, and retreat. Here the solitary is free to pursue the “project,” the way of a personal vision. Of course, the more that “way” can be cultivated, the less self-sonscious need the solitary be in social settings or even in pursuing so-called social obligations with others.
But the concern only intensifies: how does the solitary protect and safeguard that insight, that which lies behind “gates of perfection,” as Joh Cassian so felicitously puts it?
We can see this concern on the broad analogy of the “pearls to swine” gospel admonition. Why not share our wisdom, our insight, with others? The answer is built into the saying itself:
Do not give to dogs what is holy, neither cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you.
Thus hermit Moses feared that the indifferent and the lukewarm would turn into the unworthy and the begrudging if they were offered his eremitic or sagacious insights. They would trample the pearls in their ignorance and intolerance but also “turn and tear” him from his project, his way, his solitude.
The solitary is quickly confirmed in this. The solitary safeguards solitude. Not to do so is to waste time among the idle, the curious, and those who leave us emotionally drained or demoralised. Worse, it is to open the gates to those who would undermine the “way” and thus trample the project.