Reveling in solitude

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Aug 2018 11:48:01


 

By DR RAJESH IYER,

t may seem pretty odd or even incongruous to associate revelry with solitude. Revelry in general context is connected with boisterous celebrations in a group, crowd or mob. Imagining revelry in a isolated state may not convey any sense, as people in morose frame of mind or melancholic condition seek refuge in solitude. However it is a situation of ultimate, sublime, pleasure, where one can enjoy or take delight in, in solitude.

It is a unique phenomenon, which needs to be understood properly, in order to appreciate its monumental significance and immense value, in elevating the status of human existence. It is true that one of the harshest punishment that can be given to a human is to keep him/her in solitary confinement, totally away from society or company of other humans. Napoleon Bonaparte the Emperor of France who was exiled by British on the Island of St. Helena, suffered from intense loneliness, even though he was having company of many inhabitants on the Isle.

The narratives of Robinson Crusoe who was ship wrecked and compelled to lead a solitary existence on a lonely island, and similarly the character Benn Gunn, a pirate who was marooned by his gang on a deserted island (in the novel Treasure Island) make very compelling reading. Yet such tortuous loneliness can be altered or modified into beneficial solitude to realise positive gains.

Some of the greatest personalities, who have walked upon terra firma, have made profound observations, based on their personal, incredible experiences, about the virtues of solitude. Since it is a common fallacy to associate or equate solitude with loneliness, it is necessary to quote, Paul Tillich who said “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

What a marvelous depiction of merits of solitude. It is in solitude that humans can experiment with their thoughts, ideas and vision and conceptualise something beyond the realm of ordinary. The great inventor Thomas Edison said “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.” Likewise one of the greatest scientists Albert Einstein has said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Surely the epoch making Theory of Relativity must have emerged out of deep thinking in solitude! Expanding this line of thought further there is the quote of Laurence Sterne as follows, “In solitude mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.” How true - solitude helps individuals to reinforce their views and convictions by focused cogitation.

Great artists, musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, scientists, philosophers, statesmen, and leaders in various spheres and walks of life have all sought solitude in order to evolve, develop, refine original and innovative ideas, concepts schemes, plans and strategies which have resulted in transforming the world through their monumental contribution.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak authored the great treatise on Bhagwad Geeta - the Geeta Rahasya, while he was imprisoned by British in Mandalay jail in Burma. Jawaharlal Nehru created the magnum opus Discovery of India while in four years of confinement to solitude in Ahmednagar jail during the ‘Quit India’ movement. Both leaders were visionaries and statesmen of highest order and even through their contribution to literature they have left an indelible impression on humanity for generations to come. These creations were possible due to the compulsory solitary confinement imposed upon them.

This period of adversity, was converted by them into a fruitful opportunity, for harnessing their immense intellectual faculties, and creating masterpieces. “Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude”, so remarked Arthur Schopenhauer very pertinently. And just let us try to assimilate what the great thinker and writer Aldous Huxley has to say on the subject, “ The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” What a striking statement on the great value of solitude in moulding the perceptions and vision of profound scholars and intellectuals. Great philosophers have given perceptive views on magnificence of solitude.

For instance Jalaluddin Rumi, Persian Sufi Mystic has expressed “All through eternity, Beauty unveils His exquisite form, in the solitude of nothingness,” Then “Solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches; yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth,” so said Khalil Gibran Lebanese philosopher, Thinker & writer.

The esoteric views of these apostles of wisdom are all emphasising the wonderful bounties bestowed upon those humans who seek refuge in solitude. While it is true that we have to live in the world in society and associate with all kinds of people to pursue our varied vocations and achieve life goals. Humans are basically social beings and can thrive, prosper and progress by living in community and fostering inter personal relationships Yet it is equally true that eminent persons in various walks of life, need their private space to enhance potential of their talents and abilities.

As remarked by Gary Mark Gilmore, “One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.” And also let us connect with views of great musician A.R. Rahman who says, “Our inner voice is the voice of divinity. To hear it, we need to be in solitude, even in crowded places.” Here we may resort to analogy of the tortoise, which withdraws itself into the shell and gets immersed in solitude, even in the midst of the crowd. And when on the subject of divinity it is worthwhile to refer to Bhagwad Geeta where the significance of solitude has been clearly elucidated.

It is said that those with spiritual orientation have innate inclination for solitary places. Unlike worldly people, devotees are not driven by the need for company to overcome feelings of loneliness. They naturally prefer solitude that enables them to engage their mind in communion with God. Hence, they are naturally inclined to choosing solitary places, where they are able to more deeply absorb themselves in devotional thoughts. (Bhagwad Geeta Chapter 13 Verse 10).

In this context Lord Gautam Buddha has cogently expressed this insightful interpretation “Blissful is solitude for the contented, Having learnt Dharma and seeing it.” While all the foregoing paragraphs have eloquently elaborated the magnitude of solitude, there can be no better words to summarise the theme viz ‘reveling in solitude’ as exquisitely expressed by William Wordsworth in his celebrated poem on Daffodils. To quote, “For oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood, .

They flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the Daffodils.” Indeed so, in the bliss of solitude one can revel, dance, enjoy and rejoice some of the most precious and cherished thoughts, feelings, experiences, and visions of life.