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A recluse is a person who lives in voluntary seclusion from the public and society. The word is from the Latin recludere, which means "shut up" or "sequester". Historically, the word referred to a hermit's total isolation from the world. Examples are Symeon of Trier, who lived within the great Roman gate Porta Nigra with permission from the Archbishop of Trier, or Theophan the Recluse, the 19th-century Orthodox monk who was later glorified as a saint. Many celebrated figures of human history have spent significant portions of their lives as recluses.
There are many potential reasons for becoming a recluse, including, but are not limited to: a personal philosophy may reject consumer society; a mystical religious outlook may involve becoming a hermit or an anchorite; a survivalist may be practicing self-sufficiency; a criminal might hide away from people to avoid detection by police; or a misanthrope may be unable to tolerate human society. In the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Church tradition, a temporary hermit is called a Poustinik, where one has been called to pray and fast alone in a cabin for a minimum of 24 hours. In ancient Chinese culture, scholars are encouraged to be a public servant in a scrupulous and well-run government but are expected to go into reclusion as a yinshi (, 'gentleman-in-hiding') when the government is rife with corruption. Others, like Dongfang Shuo, became hermits to practice Taoism, or in later centuries, Chan (Zen) Buddhism.
It can also be due to psychological reasons, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, apathy, autism, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, intellectual disability, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder or avoidant personality disorder. In Japan, an estimated 1.2 million people are part of the phenomenon of "Hikikomori" or "social withdrawal", a problem often blamed on Japan's education system and social pressure to succeed.
Entrepreneur Kim Smiley wrote, "We live in a society that stigmatizes seclusion, yet has an almost rabid fascination with it at the same time. A survey of history shows that some of the most brilliant thinkers, writers and artists turned their backs on society to embrace a life of voluntary seclusion." Melanie Tannenbaum also noted in Pacific Standard that socially isolated children are "significantly less likely than their more social counterparts to engage in delinquent behavior during middle and high school". In Psychology Today, career coach Marty Nemko argued that the reclusive lifestyle is worthy of more consideration, stating that people who live alone are more likely to find satisfying work due to a lack of responsibility to support a family.
Many high achievers of human history were reclusive. These include the writers Virgil,Meng Haoran, Emily Brontë, J. D. Salinger, Emily Dickinson, Gustave Flaubert,H. P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, Marcel Proust,Thomas Pynchon, John Swartzwelder, and Caryl Churchill; the painters Michelangelo,Paul Cézanne, and Jackson Pollock; the scientists Isaac Newton,Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Marie Curie; the musical figures George Harrison, Mina Mazzini, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli,Glenn Gould, Lee Mavers, Layne Staley, Syd Barrett, Michael Jackson, and Mark Hollis; the inventors Nikola Tesla and Paul Allen; chess player Bobby Fischer; basketball player Pete Maravich; naturalist Richard Proenneke; filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard; aviator Howard Hughes; and actress Greta Garbo.
No artist perfected the persona of the brusque, reclusive genius better than Paul Cézanne.