What is a hermit

Leenen herself lives as a hermit near Oldenburg, she is one of an estimated 80 hermits in Germany. And like most of them, she is not completely removed from society. Leenen writes books, has her own website and a kind of blog. Other examples are the female hermit who receives almost 4,000 pilgrims every summer and earns her living with proofreading work for a publisher; or the Benedictine monk who takes care of the maintenance of an old chapel, which requires skill on the telephone and computer. What they have in common is a largely non-consumption, contemplative life in faith.

Even with the few who live a hermit existence beyond the church, religious motifs are in the foreground. And yet something else shimmers through from Leenen's descriptions: loneliness appears, with all possible severity, also as a place of longing. In this simple, ritualized life, the confusing number of options, insecurities and excessive demands are largely banished.

Does this longing also partly explain the Japanese Hikikomori, which has been described since the late 1980s? The young men themselves do not answer the question further. When doctors or psychologists ask them what makes sense of what they are doing, they usually get a shrug. What excites young men about their hermetic life, what do they expect from the future, what scares them about the world outside - the answer is almost always: "I don't know."

The young Japanese sleep, read, play on the PC and surf the Internet. In their isolation, no plan, no passion, no protest can be recognized, but rather: lethargy. Most live with their parents and are looked after by them. The withdrawal is often preceded by social problems in school or training. The hermits in the nursery are the classic outsiders.