We like to spend time with the self but for how long? After a time we become irritable. We feel self-centred. We become lonelier. Our normal social rhythm gets upset. There is feeling of less connectedness. Frequently washing hands, wiping down surfaces makes one suspect of oneself.
“All humanity’s problem stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” said Blais Pascal in the seventeenth century. It is not easy to sit alone in a room.
Pascal said that we are afraid of silence. We choose aimless distractions to avoid boredom. When we can’t face problems of emotions, we get into the trap of false comforts of the mind. We haven’t learnt the art of solitude. “We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.” We are addicted to ‘outside’ rather than ‘inside’. We dread the nothingness of nothing. We dread facing ourselves. We are afraid to resolve our internal conflicts. Despite being so intimately connected to everything else around us, we feel lonely. What connects, often, isolates us. We begin to love being distracted. Slowly we become averse to simply being.
Being alone and connecting inwardly is a skill nobody can teach us. We have to learn it ourselves. Ability to explain is a great leveller. Meditation is a process of seeking. It manages one’s internal crisis. It is a process of observing without judgment. It is a process of becoming comfortable in silence. It is a process of making one a better version of oneself.
People hate being alone. A study says, people hate to spend even 15 minutes in a room doing nothing. They don’t like to spend time in ‘inward-directed thought’ even when they are not busy. They don’t want to spend any time in ‘just thinking’. The urge to immerse our attention in external things is so instinctive that we’re scarcely aware of it. Most mails are annoyances, yet the truth is that we’re desperate to be distracted, and gladly embrace the interruption. We are afraid to get trapped in our heads. We are losing faith in our thoughts. Outside world is becoming more interesting for us.
Constructive solitude can be very productive. Social distancing often is much better than the noise of contemporaries. In self-isolation, we need to keep our Henry David Thoreau wrote long back, when in self-isolation, we need to keep our antennas raised.
We are social species. Social distancing, therefore, is not a natural phenomenon for us. In pandemic situations, we are expected to avoid large gatherings and close contact with others. We are expected to suppress our ‘evolutionarily hardwired impulses for connection’. It is not easy. But it is the requirement of the time.
Optimism, the belief that war would eventually be won no matter how bad the things go, is very important. “Collective effervescence” (sharing emotional excitement with people) magnifies the sensation that you are something larger than yourself. Giving support can be even more beneficial than receiving it.