There was a man who boasted he found the answer to all wrongdoing and evil. Many gathered to hear his claims and upon listening, intently agreed.
Over and over he said, “If I had no one to do wrong against, then I could do no wrong.”
With words like these, he praised isolation and there was a surge in the popularity of becoming a hermit.
Few dared challenge him because his followers seemed content. They never came back from their isolation to complain, at least.
Once, an explorer stumbled across one of these hermits. A young woman who had done very well for herself on her own. The explorer asked her if she was happy.
“There’s no war, there’s no one to argue with and I don’t have to answer to anyone.”
The explorer raised an eyebrow, knowing of many wars and dangers in the world. “Surely, you didn’t forget about the war?” He implored, thinking of all the losses they had suffered.
“How could I focus on something so evil and negative? If I am alone, there is no war with me.”
The explorer walked on with a heavy heart. Perhaps the man was right. Perhaps if I didn’t know about the war I could be happy.
Later that week, our friend found a group of other explorers and they camped together for a night. They shared the maps they had been drawing together and added information to each other’s findings.
The explorer we started with asked the group if they had come across any hermits in their travels.
“One of them chased me off, claiming I would bring evil to his camp.” One of the older explorers laughed. “He threatened to attack if I threatened his solitude. He was more evil alone than he had ever been in the town.”
“I met a family of them!” One of the younger explorers piped up. “They agreed to talk with me, but once they saw my maps they feared that I would bring them evil by talking about dangers foreign to them.”
The explorer nodded and listened as everyone reported similar stories. The hermits seemed happy, but their happiness was carefully dependent on not knowing of the dangers they hadn’t faced. They believed if they hadn’t seen a danger for themselves, it couldn’t hurt them.
In the morning, the explorers prepared to part ways, splitting into smaller groups. The young one volunteered to travel with our friend and they set off towards a nearby town to warn them of the changes.
As they walked, our friend asked the young one, “What do you make of the hermits?”
Sighing, the young one answered. “I think they are rather lonely. They tell themselves they are happy, but their happiness depends on denying the loss of others.”
The explorer nodded. “Happiness that depends on ignoring the pain of others cannot be true happiness.”
Stepping over a small stream, the young one replied, “So why do they believe in Isolation, if they are not happy?”
Looking towards the town, the explorer paused and saw flames on the fringes of the town. They took off running, hoping to save some from the fire.
The flames grew as the explorers and townspeople tried to rescue anyone who was trapped. Suddenly the plains caught fire and spread across the horizon. Alarmed, the young one and our friend the explorer decided to split up and find help.
Running across the path they had just walked, the explorer thought of the hermit in a cave nearby.
The flames could trap her and she would die of smoke.
Turning off the path, the explorer ran into the cave. The woman shrieked. “How could you bring your evil here? You must leave!”
“Listen, please. There is a fire coming and you’re in danger.”
The lady stood her ground, crossing her arms. “I have seen no fire. Leave and take your evil lies with you.”
The explorer pleaded with her until she grew angry and threw our friend out of the cave. Seeing a group of other explorers, the explorer took off running again. Immediately after the warning, the group moved towards the town.
Together they were able to bring water from the mountain river and dig a trench to stop the fire from advancing. The damage was done, but at least it wouldn’t reach the forest.
Looking around at the burned down houses, the explorers discovered the fire had been started by a new hermit that had recently left without extinguishing their stove.
After constructing a temporary shelter for the townspeople who lost their homes, our friend the explorer returned to the cave to check on the hermit woman. When the explorer entered the cave, she laughed. “See, I told you there was no fire.” Angry, our friend stormed out without saying a word to her. The town could be seen from the entrance to her cave if she would only look. She had enough food stored up to feed herself for a year and so many townspeople were going hungry.
Sighing, our friend concluded that one cannot flee from evil by running to solitude, for solitude creates new evils. True evil and loss may only be conquered together.