The Financial Express

Peaceful solitude in days of confinement 

-Representational image -Representational image

Perhaps days are not far when urban people who had spent their days in corona confinement for months would start reminiscing about the confined times. In their flashback, many of them might find the time being not at all delightful. The confinement order had barred people from going outside with a potent objective: preventing them from contracting the air-borne Covid-19 virus. In a couple of months, the stay-at-home order was seen being enforced in all the densely populated cities around the world. In consideration of their benefits, the confinements emerged as the first step of the WHO health guidelines. Social distancing emerged as the foremost precondition for remaining out of the pandemic's way.   But it was not an ordeal or something filled with woes either.

As the place of confinement was one's home, traumas didn't overtake the adult people. People attending office for eight hours five days a week fully enjoyed their 'no-work' days. Leisurely interludes like that prompted by a pandemic are experiences which normally do not visit the office-going people in their lifetime; at least in the last one century. In fact, in the time-span of February-March 2020 to May 2021, the whole world remained overwhelmed by the state-imposed closures and stay-at-homes prompted by the Covid-19.

Students in Bangladesh enjoyed the home confinements in the early phase of what was officially termed a state of 'shutdown'. Initially, they didn't know how to pass the visibly infinite yet serendipitous 'holidays'. As predicted by social psychiatrists, large numbers of teenage boys and girls in Dhaka began being sucked into the abyss of boredom and morbid fantasies at one stage of the shutdown. Classes or coaching sessions held online had little appeal to them. What galled them was their state of being deprived of freedom to move outside at will, like the pre-shutdown days. Compared to them, the underprivileged boys and girls with no ever-present parental guidance passed carefree days during the intermittent shutdowns. To them the no-movement days differed little from those passed in the typical urban cycles of Dhaka.

The creative persons faced a dilemma. It can be defined as love for solitude vs. the soul-eroding loneliness. Many found themselves before the spectre of creative sterility. Mere serene views of nature or the infinite sky out of the window are not all for an active creative person in order to remain fruitfully engaged with. As he or she belongs to the modern times, they need to remain in contact with humans as well. Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc can help persons to remain in contact with people outside. They help one keep the isolation-bred depressive bouts at bay. But all said and done, to a true artist and author the social media platforms remain, finally, way below the raw earthliness. There is a nearly imperceptibly thin line between reality and online-based factuality. Despite their general credibility, the virtually true images that come through online media are also subject to willful distortion --- illusory to be precise. With these technical limitations and flaws on occasions proven baseless, a true author craves for the others' physical touches and the warmth.

Detachment from the fellow humans, thus, emerged as a great existential setback for creative artists of every genre during social turmoil. Creative people have found themselves in a dilemma during the recent Covid-19 home exiles. The sensible segments of them haven't failed to realise the importance of remaining distant from the suspected virus-laden outside world. Had they belonged to the class of general people, with their monthly income assured, they would have fallen for the 'shutdown' as a prolonged home-stay in holiday atmosphere. The creative people wouldn't view the thing in this cavalier manner. But a unique form of adversity would haunt them. With little fruitful interactions with their contemporaries, they discover themselves   on a virtually deserted island. They mostly include creative people inquisitive about the unfolding of pandemic-spawned realities outside. Even the consummately romantic poets and impressionist painters also long for human company in times of crises. However, it's also true that the creation of the arts is also possible while the person concerned is in isolation. Had it not been true, mankind couldn't take pride in its rich creative legacy of cave painting. As per latest information, the first ever cave painting in history was done in Indonesia 45,500 years ago. The information comes from an Australian researcher quoted by the journal Nature Observes.  Evidently, the artwork dates back to the prehistoric times. It's not difficult for the modern man to visualise a battle-dodging young male engrossed in drawing scenes of hunting on the stone walls of a cave. These caves would usually remain hidden inside the deep recesses of a primitive forest. With the human communities and societies yet to emerge as we find them in the later times, the painter was one of the loneliest persons. There were also meditative loners who were not seen in association with others. Like them, the cave wall-painters considered the presence of outsiders unwarranted, while they remained self-absorbed with their creativity.

It was chiefly the unalloyed solitude of the artist which had enabled the humans to be able to germinate the seeds of communication with the future humans, of course through the silent plastic arts. Later, the medium assumed many forms like music, and following the invention of written scripts, poetry. These artists in all possibility had little idea that their work would one day communicate with the other humans, specifically thousands of years from their time.

The whole creative process is now interpreted as a one-off phenomenon. To elaborate, artists producing their work in perfect seclusion occurred only one time in human history --- or during the pre-historic times. Humans through the ages became engaged in hundreds of occupations and, even new forms of artistic pursuits, after their phase of secluded activities was over.

Yet man has been seen hark back to his fondly cherished loneliness. According to anthropologists, this trait stood proof to the human beings' latent atavism. It means they cannot fully wipe out their gene-dictated propensities. They might appear even after gaps of many generations. This theory helps modern scientists solve the mystery of man's thriving in self-spun solitariness amid a frenetically noisy world. As no man is averse to brief periods of seclusion or peaceful confinement, the Covid-19 shutdowns can still be able to remain in place. The most vital point that deserves to be in perspective is the crucial role being played in keeping the pandemic at bay. The segments which had doubts about the modern man's ability to get on with the so-called lockdowns and shutdowns have finally admitted the orders' effectiveness. They have realised that it is the only way to deal with the adversity.

The crux of the matter is it is the hermits and the socially forlorn artist community who have shown the plebeians the way to peace and hazard-free life. Without their lessons learnt, this world would have been uninhabitable. To speak spiritually, the metaphysical outsiders might find it too hard to put up with stark realities. Following more than a couple of centuries, humans appear to be tired of crass materialism. In conformity with the dictates of nature, there is no way out except becoming reflective and one looking inwards. It's because the quest is for peace and the ultimate truth. The search of the creative people in this direction never stops, despite the fact that short or long-term creative sterility often makes them suffer in silence.

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