I think we are so fascinated with the North Pond Hermit because, especially in this digitally super noisy age, we all sort of envy him.
- “I envy the hermit to the utmost.”
- “On the loudest days, I’ve dreamed of a tiny space in the woods all to myself, for sure.”
- “Oh absolutely. He’s a real life Rip Van Winkle.”
- “Living folklore.”
- “Who hasn’t fantasized about throwing it all away and just living in the woods? Well, I have.”
- “He’s kind of a human time capsule.”
A handful of people have suggested that they would feel more positively about Christopher Knight had he not employed lax ethics by way of stealing from others in order to survive and entertain himself. I won’t argue on the behalf of his actions, but I will acknowledge that when one takes into consideration sweat shops, wars for oil, we constantly make unethical decisions in the form of what we consume, though complicated supply chains and successful branding and marketing do us the favor of distancing us from that reality.
And in retrospect, as occurred with the retrospective myth-construction of Jesse James, we will likely see Knight’s legacy not as it actually happened, but in the context of our own anxieties and aspirations. When we look back on this time and wonder how the Hell it is we became addicted to our computers, our devices, our online avatars, the hermit’s less desirable actions—and probable other troubles—will likely be willfully forgotten and we will envy the man who left all of it behind to take to the woods.
I think that without realizing it, many of us are already doing just that.