Today’s humans are social animals. Perhaps it was not always like this. Cavemen were obviously not. As social animals solitude is an unusual or even unnatural state. But looking at our origin, the boot is on the other leg. Solitude is not only not unnatural but a very natural state. In fact society is our own invention. It was created as a mechanism to remove our feeling of insecurity.
The famous behavioural scientist Maslow classified the hierarchy of human needs into 5 levels comprising physiological needs at the bottom, safety needs at the next level after Level 1 is achieved, Love and belonging (to the society) at the 3rd level, esteem (recognition from the society) at the 4th level and self-actualisation (giving back to the society) at the top level. One can see how the concept of society took root at level 2 and became a full blown concept at higher levels bringing full security to an individual as a member of the society.
Now the concept of society has developed to such a great extent that society drives all our thinking and provokes all our actions. Only solitary confinement under the law or totally lawless kidnap, results in solitude, apart from self-imposed solitude. The famous ‘Home but not Alone’ ad by a leading maker of Idiot boxes says it all. There is no chance for solitude if we have a cell phone or TV or even a radio. Internet and Digital world have destroyed the meaning of privacy as we have known and experienced. AI is beginning disrobe us totally without our being aware of it and keeping us in the dark about what is going on. Voice, music, and noise in any form destroys the state of solitude. The most influential distractor however is human vocal and instrumental emissions, followed by those of machines. This cacophony produces what we call the deafening white noise.
In fact we often feel happy if we are able to hear birds’ chatter undisturbed by human noise. Bird watching and bird listening are one of the most soothing gifts of nature to mankind. Angling or fishing is another solitary pursuit that encourages silence. Fortunately to my knowledge even Google has not developed any software to translate the utterances of animals, fish and birds into English or any other language. I believe this is also a research project for them. Imagine our concept of solitude if and when they succeed. Not only our state of solitude will go for a toss but the entire societal behaviour will undergo sea change.
The great advantage of solitude is that it enables a person to look inwards and listen to his own mind and inner voice. S/he can also switch it off if s/he makes a special effort. It happens when the body is in need of complete rest after being overstressed. The switch off occurs in deep sleep, even in a disturbing environment. This is indeed a great blessing given to only a few adults. Children are more fortunate. When we are not fast asleep or are merely resting, we are in an intermediate subconscious stage, experiencing a dream or partially alive to what is happening around us. The body is at rest but not the mind which keeps wandering.
Carl Jung the Swiss psychologist proposed and developed the concepts of extroverted versus introverted personality, sensation versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perceiving. His analysis was taken forward by the mother daughter team of Myers and Briggs of US who designed the MBTI Test for classifying individuals into eight types (Now 16 types) for donning different roles in society. The MBTI test has found acceptance even today. It is said to provide an opportunity to tweak our personality to suit our assigned role. For the current topic, the point of interest is the contrast between introverts and extroverts. Introverts are shy, withdrawn, reserved persons with a limited spoken vocabulary who like to keep to themselves. They tend to seek solitude and introspection. They don’t go out of their way to make friends. Extroverts are the party going type, always seeking company and most comfortable to be among friends. They find solitude boring and even stressful.
What are the future prospects of Solitude? It will be available only to those who understand its merit and seek it earnestly. Corona has rudely shaken up the societal behaviour by confining people to their homes. One positive fallout may be to make us understand the virtues of solitude.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Ramana.
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Power.