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Isolation vs. Solitude – I

Enjoying Solitude

The dictionary meaning of the word isolate is to cause (a person or place) to be or remain alone or apart from othersAnd so, isolation is the process or fact of isolating or being isolated.

The literal meaning of another word – solitude – too is the state or situation of being alone.

So, both isolation and solitude mean being alone. In fact, another meaning of isolation could also be to keep or stay in solitude. However, it’s the circumstances leading to this state of being alone is what differentiates these two words from one another.

While both mean being alone, this perhaps is the only similarity that the two words have. Solitude is usually voluntary and may even be on many people’s active wish list. Isolation, on the other hand, is usually thrust on us and rarely evokes pleasant images of being by oneself.

But in these paradoxical times, on the one hand we are confined to our homes, but on the other we can look virtually into a loved one’s home across the seven seas!! Peculiar times indeed. Strangely, the word social which necessarily implies being with people, is today suffixed with the word distancing. Perhaps just a few weeks ago the phrase social distancing may have raised serious doubts about one’s competence at language usage but today we’ve rather quickly added it to our ever-evolving vocabulary. It’s also a real life reminder of the oft used phrase – ‘so near and yet so far’….

And so here’s a thought ….. what if we were to recalibrate the meaning of isolation? Just in our minds? Just for now? What if we were to – albeit temporarily – swap  meaning and connotation of isolation with solitude?

The minute you do that you will feel differently about being by yourself. You might almost feel a sense of calm descend on you and a sense of slowing down, settling down and living in this moment of just being… with yourself.

Discovering yourself, understanding yourself, perhaps even reinventing yourself.

A little play of words, a minor adjustment, and magically we’d be basking in the luxury of solitude. That enviable state of being that professionals dream of, that poets write about, and the ultimate state of connection with self that philosophers thrive on. So, make the most of the solitude …that is truly God sent in more ways than one.

Dr. Vandana R. Singh and Arindam Ghosh
Written for Schoolnet India & Learnet Skills on 10th April 2020

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