The Romantic Literary Movement in England was intensified by the presence and the contribution of a talented young man. Charismatic and brilliant, the poet and politician George Gordon Byron, or, as he is more popularly known, Lord Byron (1788-1824), captured the colorful imagination of the Regency period with his literary skills and his debonair appeal.
Controversial to say the least, his life long quest for debauchery and poetic prowess reflected his dangerous yet intriguing passion for life. He was able to artfully convey this passion by portraying his feelings through exquisite poetry that celebrated the beauty of love and solitude. A verse from his poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” emerged to have an identity of its own and came to be known as one of his most famous short poems, “There is Pleasure in the Pathless Woods.” This poem’s depiction of tranquility and solitude stands as a testimony to why Byron is famed for his contribution as a Romantic poet.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore….”
While the contribution of ideas from others contributes to our creativity, the role of solitude in stimulating our creative mind is a universally accepted phenomenon. Whether it is the case of writing, painting, or anything that has to do with creativity, our mind refreshes itself in the companionship of solitude. It seeks to help us connect to ourselves and life, find meaning, and in the case of many, helps them to express the awareness or the wisdom they have gained through the experience in their unique manner.
In my 5th grade, I had a classmate, Sumitra, who used to be known for her chirpiness, intellect, and creativity. Apart from making colorful paper dolls and their outfits, she was admired for her uniquely crafted flipbooks. What was interesting about her was that just as she would enjoy spending time with the class and friends, she would also enjoy spending time quietly in her creative pursuits. Her social interactions would have heightened her creativity. Yet she spent a good deal of time to create her beautiful craftwork in solitude painstakingly. In recent years, I had observed the significance of solitude and creativity when my Father took months to write a poignant story about an incident in his childhood titled, ‘The Elephant Story.’ Being a perfectionist, he had spent weeks planning his story in solitude, burning the midnight oil, before he wrote it. He then took many more months to polish it to the level he felt satisfied enough to show the world his creation finally.
My Father today is no more, yet his story, to me, is a testimony of his mastery over his power of creative expression. His story also conveyed his lucid recollection of that childhood boat trip and the solitude that he cherished every day in the afternoon to create that one story. For me, his story is not just a glimpse of his literary skills but a reminder of the compassion he had for humanity at the tender age of seven.
Some of the most creative and prolific individuals we know have enjoyed the inspiration from solitude and the world around them. They have astounded us with their original brilliance. Few of these remarkable world-renowned personalities who made an impact on our planet with their inventions, discoveries, artistic, musical, and literary contributions are Issac Newton, Piccasso, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Kafka.
If we are not to contemplate solitude as an inspiration for creativity, what still is so mysterious or irresistible about solitude? Is it the quietness that we immerse ourselves in or the fact that we remain in the world, yet undisturbed by the society that we are a part of? One point is the reality that it is in solitude that we connect to ourselves, our body. It is also a reminder that taking care of it is our sole responsibility.
Recently, I had come across a fascinating article titled “Who is your life partner?’ by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, the internationally famed volunteer-based NGO organization. What made his article unique was its emphasis on the responsibility we have regarding ourselves. In it, he conveys the significance of our relationship with our body from birth to death. It’s a relationship that is reflective of the companionship that we would enjoy with our real-life partner. While our personal and social relationships require us to make time and effort to know others, this is the one relationship that requires us to invest time in quiet contemplation or in solitude, to bloom.
Apart from paying better attention to ourselves, it is through moments of solitude that we realize there is much to learn from contemplation, listening, and observation of the world around us. It is also a great way of reconnecting with ourselves in our busy life of connecting to others. Does solitude encourage us to seek answers to our purpose in life? What are we aiming for? Are we leading a life that is fulfilling? Just how often do we ask ourselves these questions and go forth to lead the life we wish to?
During training sessions, time, and again, I meet lovely people who, for all purposes, appear to be successful in the world – great job, financially settled, stable home. That is until they admit that they are not happy with the job and in some cases, the life they lead. What is it that makes us happy? For starters, we can say excellent health. In reality, it is a very subjective appreciation of life that makes each person happy. As we all know, what makes our neighbor happy need not necessarily make us happy.
Solitude enables us to think about what truly makes us happy or will make us happy without the distractions or stimulations from the external environment. Another reason in appreciating solitude is that it is not related to loneliness and never will be.
As someone once said,
” Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone, and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”