I suspect that in most people’s minds—and perhaps in my own—the activism justifies the withdrawal. To see hermit and activist as different parts of the same person’s life should be easy. But to see the hermit as an activist, or withdrawal as activity, requires a leap of mind and faith that is altogether radical. There must be a place for the life of the total recluse, the hermit who gets nothing done. We need to work our way toward understanding that contemplatives, although we don’t see them and they don’t do anything, can be defenders of the society in which they don’t live, guardians and protectors of the public good.
– from “The Hermit as Activist: In Search of Subversive Selflessness” by David Budbill, appearing on the Utne Reader online, originally published in Shambhala Sun in July-August 1999.