Even professional Swiss hermits must have good people skills

In Average is Over I wrote that future jobs will require good “people skills” all the more.  There is a new example of this from Solothurn, Switzerland, where the town is searching for a full-time hermit, to live of course in their hermitage.  But now Solothurn has updated the job description:

Solothurn has updated the job description. “Along with acting as caretaker and sacristan, responsibilities include interaction with the many visitors,” the ad warns potential applicants.

“There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the job title of hermit and the fact he or she has to deal with throngs of visitors,” says Sergio Wyniger, the head of Solothurn’s city council. So far, the city has received 119 applications and expects to make a decision by next week.

The job of a hermit isn’t what it used to be. Tourists can easily reach once-secluded spots and modern technology makes it harder to escape friends and relatives—or strangers looking for advice on how to navigate life’s challenges. Today, many hermits live in city apartments or suburban row houses, often relying on the Internet to make a living or order groceries.

…On top of keeping the gorge and adjacent chapels clean and tidy, the new hermit will have to help out with weddings and baptisms and dole out counsel for visitors suffering heartbreak or family trouble. In return, the city council will pay him or her 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,115) a month, along with free lodging in the wood-shingled hermitage. The hermit works for and is paid by the city of Solothurn.

Perhaps someone should write a book on how the institution of hermit is evolving:

“Hermits usually have a mobile phone, because they can switch it off for prayers,” says Mr. Turina, who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Catholic hermits in Italy.

The article is here.


Actually, dealing with throngs of visitors has long been part of the hermit experience. Many monastics fled farther and farther into the wilderness in order to avoid throngs of religious tourists. Simeon the Stylite sat on top of a pole for 37 years to escape the crowd.


Yes, and hair shirts now are made of the finest mohair, to be more comfortable to the skin. To me, nothing was more shocking than seeing, in Greece, a Greek Orthodox hermit with cell phone and Mercedes. No I made that up. But I did see supposedly poor priests with the above, one of whom was defrocked and/or voluntarily quit the church because of his worldly excesses.

Did Michael Lewis write about those guys? http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2010/10/greeks-bearing-bonds-201010

Living on top of a pillar is a bad way to escape attention.

In fact, Simeon's pillar seems to have been located on a mountain top visible from several of the major trade routes of the region (not to mention a nearby village).

Future jobs will require *more* people skills? Ask me how many software engineers' bare feet I see walking around the office each day.

How many?

Two. Two bare feet.

Software guys might well have poor people skills. But being uptight and snobbish about footwear is also not a great skill.

Unless you're a shoe salesman.

"The job of a hermit isn’t what it used to be."

Now that's a good sentence.

I wasn't aware that hermit was a job choice. Can I add it to my resume? Sounds better than unemployed.

Still, I would never go back to public relations.

"Perhaps someone should write a book on how the institution of hermit is evolving"

Someone (almost) has: The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome

Sadly it's about how the ornamental hermit has evolved.

"Gordon Campbell treats the topic with the seriousness and attention to detail one expects of a scholar, but he never falls into the academic's trap of assuming his readers are would-be hermit scholars."

So perhaps not quite right for Professor Cowen.

That's a running joke in Tom Stoppard's masterpiece "Arcadia:" around 1817, Lady Croom is employing the contractor Noakes to revamp her estate's gardens from the old neoclassical style to the Romantic style:

“LADY CROOM: .... (Pointing through the window) What is that cowshed?

NOAKES: The hermitage, my lady?

LADY CROOM: It is a cowshed.

NOAKES: It is, I assure you, a very habitable cottage, properly founded and drained, two rooms and a closet under a slate roof and a stone chimney --

LADY CROOM: And who is to live in it?

NOAKES: Why, the hermit.

LADY CROOM: Where is he?

NOAKES: Madam?

LADY CROOM: You surely do not supply an hermitage without a hermit?

NOAKES: Indeed, madam --

LADY CROOM: Come, come, Mr Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?

NOAKES: I have no hermits, my lady.

LADY CROOM: Not one? I am speechless.

NOAKES: I am sure a hermit can be found. One could advertise.

LADY CROOM: Advertise?

NOAKES: In the newspapers.

LADY CROOM: But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.”

― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

I am a real hermit. My only social interaction is commenting on MR.

In "How the Irish Saved Civilization", Thomas Cahill writes of the new Irish Christians, who, dismayed by the lack of real Irish martyrs conceived a "green martyrdom" wherein a particularly inspired cleric would go off alone to a remote place and become a hermit, praying and studying. Of course, being Irish, others followed to keep the first one company and communities grew up around these places. This practice spread across Europe and became the network of famous abbeys and monasteries that preserved knowledge and culture for future generations through the "dark ages". Fascinating stuff.

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