Why Citydesert?

After five years – more or less and with great variation in frequency of early postings – it seems like a good time to consider why this blog exists.

Citydesert seeks to offer material on “the Desert Tradition”, especially for those living modern lives in cities. It seeks specifically to provide:
1. Insights and commentaries on the basic principles of the eremitical life (for example: solitude, silence, sufficiency) from ancient and (particularly) modern sources. The eremitical life is popularly assumed to be within the field of Christian archaeology, religious psychopathology or general weirdness (often, more politely, called “eccentricity”). But Hermits are not archaeological specimens or relics of the past, or case studies in psychopathology (although examples of all these can be found!). Modern research into and studies of and commentaries on the basic principles of the eremitical life (although those writing such studies and commentaries would not necessarily recognise the connection) provide valuable insights into and assist in understanding the value of the life of the Hermit: self-sufficiency, voluntary solitude, simple living, minimalism….. To some extent, modern research can be said to be re-discovering eremitical values. The ancient principles of the eremitical life are now often being regarded as the remarkable discoveries of modern living!
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2. Accounts of modern Hermits (including urban Hermits) to show how the eremitical life can be and is lived today. This will, I hope, encourage those who feel alone (and possibly “odd”) to realise that a community exists, albeit informal and unknown and unrecognised, of their brothers and sisters in the eremitical life. Some of us have been fortunate to make contact with our brothers and sisters as sources of encouragement and insight.
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3. Accounts of the lives of the traditional Hermits, especially those in the deserts of the Middle East. Less attention is given to this subject since substantial resources, in print and on-line, are available. But attention will be given to less well known aspects of the ancient eremitical life: like diet, dress and liturgical practice.
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Those of us who strive to live the eremitical life today – whether in cities or semi-urban locations, in rural or remote places, in the traditional deserts (whether of sand or snow), or anywhere else – are part of a living, continuous tradition that has, throughout the centuries, waxed and waned, but never been lost. It is not a tradition based upon a continuing community (as is the coenobitic monastic life or the semi-eremitical life within communities of hermits), or formal links. As in ancient times, most modern Hermits find their individual callings alone and, often, in isolation. The original Hermits set off to explore the unknown, unregulated, unmapped, more or less chaotic life of “the Desert”; so do we.
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When I began exploring the eremitical life I felt, initially, alone and uninformed. Fortunately, my academic background and my research skills enabled me to, quickly, find resources, many of them invaluable. I want to share what I have found with others.
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Citydesert seeks to offer a resource, inspiration, encouragement, guidelines for research and exploration….. It makes no claim (other than rarely!) to offer original material or unique insights. Most often it is drawing attention to the valuable work of others, some living the eremitical life, some scholars in the field, some writers and journalists. The blog is intended more as a “clearinghouse” than as an original work.
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Citydesert is specifically and explicitly Christian and, indeed, Orthodox. This is not because other traditions of eremiticism are rejected as of lesser or no value, but simply because of the spiritual tradition within which its author lives. The work of such amazing and valuable blogs as Hermitary – http://www.hermitary.com/ – which seeks to cover the wide world of eremiticism is gratefully acknowledged.
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I welcome feedback, both positive and negative, and especially references to material that I should publish (including books, articles, news of modern eremitical professions and other relevant material). This can be sent via the blog or by e-mail: gregory1@pacific.net.au I am happy to answer, as far as I am able, questions about the modern eremitical life, either on the blog (whether anonymised or identified) or privately.

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