Macchars don’t wear sweaters

Posted on: August 20, 2011

In the bus yesterday, I saw a man who was talking to himself on and on, totally oblivious of people around him. Quite evidently he was mentally sick, but the contents of what he was saying were not disjointed blabber, or very far removed from reality. It was to an extent the same things one may talk about to oneself when one is alone, or inside the confines of ones head. And yet, the more he spoke, the more agitated he became – almost like an engine which couldn’t stop itself from running, and which became more and more overheated as it ran.

I, quite romantically evidently, mused that he was not mentally sick, but a lonely person. Someone, who in the lack of human company, had descended into their own self, into a world with it’s own logic, more and more disconnected from reality in the absence of the correcting, reality-checking presence of other people. Although it might be inaccurate in the case of this person, one can well envision this happening to someone who is subject to extreme deprivation of human company, say, a prisoner.

The strange thing to me is that solitude is the more natural state of man, or at least the path of less resistance, in that interaction with other humans and society always involves a certain pressure, and requires effort. But following this path of less resistance seems to lead to dissipation, as opposed to a state of well being. Or in other words, if a human is suddenly freed of all the obligations and pressures of social life, will not go towards a state of well being, but a state of dissipation. Making a further leap, it seems to me that there is a band of normal behavior in society, and there is always a temptation to, and possibility of  stepping out of this band. For example, when one sees a mad person babbling at the top of their voice in a mall, one is tempted to think – wont it be liberating to do that yourself? But ironically, this sudden liberation from constraints would seem to me to lead to inner suffering as opposed to a greater sense of wellness that one may expect to result from letting the self express itself unhindered. If this is true, it underlines the oddness of human life, and the importance of living life in “balance” – always keep between extremes.

This is a purely negative conclusion, and has some evident contradictions. There are some obvious examples of people consciously pursuing solitude, or a life totally outside normal “bands” and experience a state of extreme inner well being. These are ascetics who enter caves for years, or don’t talk to anyone for years and are able to experience a heightened and pleasurable “altered perception”.

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4 Responses to ""

To quote Bulleh Shah;

Je rab milda nahateya dhoteya, te rab milda dadduan machiyan noo,
Je rab milda jangal phireyan te rab milda gaiyaan bachiyan noon
Je rab milda mandir – masiti te milda cham chidikhiyan noon

Ve miyan Bulleya rab onhan noon milda
Ati dil-eya achiyyan sachhiya noon

If God was to be found by bathing and cleaning, then frogs and fishes would have found him long back
If God was to be found by roaming in jungles, then cows and other animals would have found him long back
If God was to be found in Temples and Mosques then the birds and the bats would have found him long back

Bulle, God will be found only by those who are true and good at heart…

Superfluously, “god” is used figuratively..

Loneliness and solitude is seldom by choice…

If freed from the pressures of social life, I think most of us will experience a sense of inadequacy – we are not used to solely ourselves for company.

I have a friend who’s studying at an ashram and one of the tasks they were given was to stay locked up in a room for 48 hours without anything – nothing to read, write with, etc. – they could only eat/sleep/”observe themselves”. Some begged to be let out within 30 hours itself, and all of them almost cried with relief when let out.

For me, solitude is about being at peace with oneself. Inner peace calls for a certain amount of detachment and withdrawal – a kind of quiet strength. But it’s one thing to feel comfortable in the zone of solitude and another to be lonely. Loneliness is terrible. Ultimately, man IS a social being, no?

I don’t know how ascetics do it.

beautifully put ramya. people at peace with themselves have a sense of space even in company. i took a leap in my article, by jumping from extreme loneliness leads to dissipation to any behavior outside the “band of normal” leads to dissipation.

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