Posted by: h4ck@lyst | February 3, 2008

IF you are an intelligent people observer, you would have noticed two kinds of loners. Those who wear their loneliness comfortably. At ease with themselves, their gaze is steady and introspective. Friendly if someone approaches them, they aren’t unduly perturbed if left to their own devices.
Then there are those extremely uncomfortable with their loner status. They are awkward if someone talks to them, and more so when ignored. Bad social manners yes, but beyond that, you can figure these are lonely people who haven’t learnt to be comfortable with their aloneness.
Loneliness is not the same as aloneness. Being alone implies not having anybody with you; it’s a state of being. A person who is alone may or may not be lonely. You can be comfortable and positive with your aloneness, or you may choose to be negative about it, which is when it becomes loneliness — a state of mind.
Loneliness, in fact, doesn’t just strike those who are alone. It can strike you even when you are in the midst of a crowd. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely! Sitting amongst friends or even with family, you can sometimes feel a searing loneliness that is inexplicable. This can get quite disturbing since there’s no plausible cause for the
feeling of isolation and depression.
Indeed loneliness can be an anathe
ma, leading to depression and much heartburn, unless you have the capability or intellect to use it to rise to higher levels of consciousness. And yet, it is up to you where you allow it to lead you.
Loneliness is a strange feeling of detachment from those around you, where you float away from the situation and almost seem to be an outsider looking in.
There’s a strange yearning, a thirst for something you cannot figure out, something that evades your grasp and yet, tantalizingly beckons from not-so-far. This is an intellectual loneliness, which has teased seekers for ages. Spiritual healers would have us believe that the intellectual yearning of a lonely person is actually a yearning for the Ultimate Truth. Dr Brian Weiss goes further and explains it as the yearning for soul mates we have been separated from and will meet again in this lifetime and other lives to come.
Spiritual or intellectual, perhaps it was this loneliness — a feeling of emptiness and isolation — that set Gautam Buddha on his path to enlightenment, this that exhorted Gandhi to begin his experiments with truth. This again that fired the pens of many creative writers and coloured the lives of many an artist. Loneliness and a yearning for friendship inspired a lot of Robert Browning’s work, the essays of Charles Lamb and many others. For centuries, great people have lurked in a lonely state, on the periphery of society.
The trick is in learning to graduate from loneliness to the love of solitude, much
like Wordsworth does in The Daffodils, where the loneliness of “I wandered lonely as a cloud…” soon, with the sighting of the daffodils, and the poet’s imaginative response to them, turns to a blissful expression of solitude…
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 solitude is a desirable state to be in. Distinct from loneliness, it has a certain healing quality. You can find solitude anywhere if you are seeking it. Loneliness is negative, it doesn’t give you solitude. But you can rise from one state to the other if instead of giving way to the negatives of loneliness, you choose to seek its resonant qualities, use it to your advantage by turn
ing inwards. Turn within to an understanding of the self. As all great thinkers and poets have done for ever.
Choosing an existence far removed from cacophony of life, almost all poets and artists have used Nature to help them create that resonance which transforms loneliness to a fulfilling solitude, be it Wordsworth’s Daffodils or Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden in As You Like It, where nature is alive and talks. An inner harmony, a balance that flows from within to without to embrace all around — creating a cosmos, a vibration in your aloneness.
You can also snap out of a lonely state of mind by throwing yourself into activities that get your creative juices flowing. Read, write, paint, cook, dance, sing, watch movies, listen to music. Do whatever you choose, with a passion that slakes intellectual thirst, and that passion would surely blow away the cobwebs of a lonely state.
So, whether you convert your state of aloneness to a depressing solitary, lonely state or to the bliss of solitude — the choice is yours!

vinita.nangia@timesgroup.com 
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