The Financial Express

Post-pandemic loneliness: Bitter realities

| Updated: January 14, 2022 21:02:04

Post-pandemic loneliness: Bitter realities

Loneliness and self-imposed solitude are the two states of the human mind. They are outwardly different from each other. But are intrinsically two sides of the same coin.  The first one is generally viewed as being filled with desolation and a sense of persecution. The latter is extolled as having an uplifting impact on the psyche of a section of people. These people are said to normally choose creative pursuits as their life-long mission. There is a flipside, too. As seen in the other conditions of mind, these two mental states cannot have rigidly defined frames; like human emotions they at times stand opposed to each other. They also overlap.

In conformity with this universal truth, a lonely person doesn't necessarily suffer from depression. Like others, he also discovers himself in blithe states of mind. If he is a creative person, several paths of creativity beckon him --- all of them ending in a new outlet of creativity. Thus, the long-held belief that chronic loneliness stands in the way of creations turns out to be a myth. It has continued to have been proved that depressed people have also contributed to a nation's growth of the arts and many other finer activities. On the other hand, the solitude-loving people also look for places far from the crowd. Theirs is a meditative way of reaching the inner depth of truth, one that relates to the arts. It's specially the painters, music composers and philosophers who belong to this group. The composure and tranquility required of a creative artist have been found in the state of solitude.

These observations shouldn't be interpreted as attempts to belittle 'creative' cynicism or 'corrosive' loneliness. The presence of both kinds of people --- solitude-loving and angst-filled, contributes to the final shaping of developed societies. They help develop a country's different fields in their unique ways. In the mainstream life, too, loneliness or loners are looked down upon by the general people. Modern psychiatry has changed this social attitude. Thanks to their new interpretations, loners in general emerge finally as successful 'creators'. The areas of their feats range from activities in the greater arts, mystical exercises to even entrepreneurship. As the solitude seekers prefer a peaceful atmosphere, they remain identified by people around them. In fact, both the groups deserve special places for their respective style of activities.

Loneliness or a hermit-like self-centred life has few possibilities to lose its appeal in the near future. Instead, with the spread of the 20th century existentialism after the publication of novels and stories by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, passivity and withdrawn life began being celebrated. According to social scientists, there are few options for the talented people with penchant for any serious assignment. They have to turn to secluded lives after a prolonged period of siege. The post-Covid-19 pandemic age of loneliness can be cited as an instance. Like the other Ages through the centuries, the Age of Solitude and Loneliness has already set in. Collectivism or united efforts are the two noticeable trends.  It's them on which the early 20th century statecraft, economy etc had begun taking their new roots and gained strength as years wore on. It could be witnessed especially in the socialist block. But the ripples of the collective social welfare could be felt in many staunchly capitalist countries. Authors, painters and thinkers couldn't take themselves away from the sweeping social trends of growing collectively.

But when the tsunami-like surge of individualism swept over the worlds of the arts and thinking, writers, poets, social commentators, the fine arts people et al didn't lose time to pause --- and think about the future of the feverish championing of collective drives. It didn't take long for the sensitive people to realise the bitter realities of following collectivism. Western economists, politicians, the intelligentsia and the arts people, in general, reversed their position on their social roles. Insidiously, the extolling of the self began. Along with it, society began being overtaken by loneliness. Poets, novelists and philosophers entered their veritably exclusive domains of solitude.

Loneliness and creativity are said to go together. The serious segments of people do not always agree with this truth. According to them, in this complex world there are few human traits exclusive to particular activities or classes. They overlap with each other. Thus an artist at times has to allow his or her seclusion to be overtaken by the cacophonous din of social and community life. Owing to the ever-widening horizon of different types of human activities and engagement, no humans can claim to be completely isolated or independent. The days of Robinson Crusoe or the hurricane-hit castaways have long been over. Still some people continue to evade human company. To them association with these companies only invites disturbance. It means deviation from their targets of engaging in the search for truth.

Persons highly committed to their self-imposed exile from engagements with society finally get habituated to their off-the-track living style. Few can say how many of them finally succeed in attaining their super-real goal. It matters little to them. It's because their long mission started with their integration with the life of a loner. To interpret in a spiritualistic way, these social misfits do court loneliness. It is the state in which they want to see themselves get lost in thick layers of mist --- never to return.

But there are distressing developments. In the feeling of romance in which the early phase of the 20th century loneliness had been soaked began to fade away later. With the fast progress of industrialisation and technological innovations leading to stiff competitions between societies, the world communities were brought to the borders of meaningless animosities. The world still had pockets of people frenetically searching for solitude. Given their adamant stance on their search for the ultimate liberation from the mundane bonds or their attainment of 'nirvana', the greater society didn't feel prompted to disturb them.  Almost a century later, the strong influence of existentialism on the greater arts seems to be fading. There are loners. But in their exercise of loneliness in society or on its fringes, they discover external influences. This is not the pure solitude they have craved for throughout their lives.

After a year-long forced confinement at home following the Covid-19 outbreak, the sensitive people being overtaken by depression was a normal corollary. A long gap in contact with the world outside was supposed to breed a new kind of loneliness. It was conspicuously fraught with premonitions. As a result, this human plight couldn't be linked with the age-old solitude. Upon losing the inherent urge to flee social or community obligations, the otherwise loneliness-seekers may have felt dejected. As has been observed by the pragmatic segments in society, this is no time for getting lost in deep meditation of any kind. The issue that warrants urgent focus is joining the collective efforts to stop the assaults of the pandemic. At the same time the resumption of normalcy in helping fellow humans get back their socio-economic moorings is also another imperative. In the medieval times, the escapists didn't stand beside their fellow beings. In the age of pro-activeness in every sphere of life, the loners are also, ironically, considered pariahs.

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