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Apologies for being away from the blogosphere for nearly a month. You can say the muse has been a bit sleepy or maybe I have been lazy. But, there is one aspect of life that has been haunting me for some days now which I wanted to share in my post — loneliness versus aloneness.

Have you ever felt that utter loneliness when you are in a huge party? Have you ever got that sinking feeling when you are taking a walk in the evening? Have you ever felt futile after a grand success? Have you ever stood on a huge podium listening to a thunderous applause and yet expecting someone to appreciate you? Have you ever gone to the shopping complex with a bunch of relatives, yet found yourself lost and alone? Have you ever had a huge bunch of amazingly vibrant colleagues, teasing you and cheering you up and yet you are left desiring for a friend? Have you ever had a fantastic group of close-knit friends but still you desired to be just by yourself? Philosophical it might sound, and to some might look boring and brooding but I felt must share this experience.

D.H. Lawrence, the famous British novelist of early 20th century in the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, poignantly reflected that there is a difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness”. By “aloneness” Lawrence perhaps meant our very state of being — that state of mind which is an indivisible part of us. While, by “loneliness” he meant the acute sense of a need to be with oneself. One might choose to be lonely, but one cannot choose to be alone.

I remember once during my Postgraduation days in the Lawrence lecture series when we were taught Women in Love, my Professor had explained us this difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness” through the novels of Lawrence. He said that to be lonely is a matter of one’s choice. You can be lonely for as long as you want, but to be alone is beyond priorities and prerogatives. Aloneness is our very state — we are all essentially alone. I had not understood the implications of that statement then — perhaps was too naive to understand and perhaps had chosen my moments of being “lonely”. Those were the days when our lives and times were filled with people. But as time passes, the realization of that statement made some 7-8 years ago slowly dawns upon me. In most of the cases, loneliness can be tackled by the society, call it friends, colleagues or family. It is desired also. Else, the social bonding will be destroyed by the lonely mind and soul. In a quite different equation, the feeling of aloneness can not be handled by the society.  Feeling of aloneness  is sometimes desired because it gives personal space to some one to come out from a trauma, to reconcile from a personal problem. But, one has to keep an eye or there can be psychological problems leading to other social problems.

Recently, while reading through my old notebooks I came across that statement taken down from my Professor’s lectures with a red-mark, which meant that I have not understood the meaning of the particular note. I hunted the original quotations of Lawrence and what I read and discovered was something very new — very unfamiliar to what I had understood in PG days. Lawrence writes:

“It’s no good trying to get rid of your own aloneness. You’ve got to stick to it all your life. Only at times, at times, the gap will be filled in. At times! But you have to wait for the times. Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they’ve got to come. You can’t force them.”

D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover)

Thus, the people and the events that our lives are usually filled up with are but intermissions, a kind of “stop-gap” arrangement to fill our “aloneness”. They come and go and you have to reconcile with their coming and going and with your being “alone” after they come or after they go. I understood the implications of these lines after such a long forgotten phase. When I now read Lawrence after so many years, it seemed the words were his but the feelings were part of my old tattered lecture notes and the life — it is the life that I lead today. After every success, life makes you more keenly perceptive that you are alone.

In a place like IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), where practicality has more importance than anything else, aloneness or loneliness is very common. The value of time or money has more importance than sentimental excess and professionalism always outcasts the personal. In the personal front, people are very private, difficult to fathom. Some play computer games for hours, some keep walking by the lake side, some work and work, while some others watch movies relentlessly. These are the company that many choose and those who can not choose are left meandering through the alleys of darkness. Yet, I have realized that we are basically alone — after watching a movie what next? After submitting a journal paper what next? After playing 10 hours of computer games what next? This “what next” keeps haunting most of us. May be some of us accept it and may be some of us laugh at it as foolishness — yet there is no excuse.

These elemental differences of being “lonely” and being “alone” still do exist — you might name it sentimentalism, sensitivity or ground realities or life but most of us perceive it at some or the other point of our lives. While some of us can theorize it, some can philosophize it and some can define it — others just live it knowing not what to call it and how to brand it.