What made creative genius Ingmar Bergman note that ‘Here in my solitude, I have the feeling that I contain too much humanity’ may never be revealed. But being alone has its own beauty and moments of revelations, which one misses otherwise. But be lonely at your own risk.
Probably, nothing has exposed the layered secrets of solitude better than the ‘Bedroom at Arles’ by Vincent Van Gogh, who explores seclusion and emptiness traversing the realm of loneliness, touching on the entire spectrum of its tragic and liberative aspects, and all that lie between.
Aren’t all our social systems a weak attempt at negating solitude? Or do they simply offer a meaningful contrast to solitude, so that it gets highlighted?
One thing is obvious: existential dimensions bespeak solitude. The dreary emptiness and deafening vastness of the deserts; the rugged and lofty mountain ranges; the unrestrained might of the seas; the all-pervasive sky…
The Sultanate, with its deserts, mountains and coastal lines, is a geographical invitation to experience solitude in its utmost sacredness. Surprisingly, though, Omani artists have shied away from exploring solitude, with few exceptions such as Alia al Farsi.
Her ‘Zenith of Solitude’, a collage on canvas, is a master stroke seeking to connect with the veiled but exalted aspects of aloneness. In her own words, ‘the painting has a rich story to draw us to spirituality as the lady in the painting achieves her highest self and is free like a monk while overcoming challenges and her baggage in life only to reach the highest point known as Zenith. The lady’s austerity brings in bliss even in solitude. The man asks her to forgive, but she feels empowered to discover her highest point and joy in solitude.’
Solitude is each individual’s birthright. Psychologists have realised that a lack of ‘alone time’ takes away the happiness in relationships, douses creative sparks, and spoils tranquility. They argue that solitude allows us to connect to others in a far richer way.
Advocates of the healing aspects of solitude or ‘time out’ are on the rise. It is considered as a powerful coping strategy, and an emotional breather.
Examined against the philosophical import of solitude, the present obsession with selfies conveys a deep message. As individuals, we fiercely fight for independence, which in a way endorses solitude; but at the same time, we fear alienation. And we try to connect with the rest, all the time.
What better way to make this subtle statement than selfies? Selfie-taking has quickly evolved into an art form —though not so refined or subliminal as others, and it is a key element of what builds our social media experience. It may not be a passing fad.
According to Dr Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol, of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Bangkok, ‘Not only do individuals who become obsessed with taking selfies tend to feel that their personal lives and psychological well-being are damaged, but they may feel that relationship qualities with others are also impaired.’
NIDA researchers also concluded that a vast majority of selfie-takers spent more than 50 per cent of their spare time on either their mobile phone or the Internet, and people who have lonely personalities tend to take and post more selfies as a means to get approvals from others.
Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco’s suggestion that the act of taking a selfie should be called ‘taking a lonely’, then, makes perfect sense.
Anyways, selfies fulfil one’s intense desire to capture the self so as to share it with as many others as possible. Selfie-taking is now deemed a multidimensional cultural and social act that seeks to fathom the complexity of individual identity.
Selfies construct genuine, plain narratives about the self.
And the self is, in its purest essence, nothing but awareness in joyful solitude.
T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR