By Vijay Phanshikar :
THIS is one word that has often fascinated me. It has a meaning much deeper than one may understand -- so deep that once revealed, it may flummox anybody. Solace! Yes, that’s the word. Dictionary says, ‘solace’ means cheer, soothe, console, comfort. It may also mean reprieve, in a way. There is certain lacuna in each of these shades, we may say.
For, ‘solace’ may mean many more things, one of which may be ‘freedom’ from certain burden -- reprieve from certain encumbrance. Here we enter the inner zone of thought. When he played the Men’s Singles Final on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, tennis legend Rafael Nadal referred to the “cathedral-like silence” that prevailed there. In that silence, Rafa’s head raced helter-skelter as he played his strokes -- some winners and some losers. And there, he realised the cacophony in his head -- all kinds of noises, confusing him, pushing him deep into chaotic thoughts. And at that moment, he warned himself against all that chaos in the head. ‘No, don’t get swayed’, he warned himself, ‘either by a loser or by a winner. For, a loser shot may drown your hope, and a winner may boost it out of shape.
So, keep cool, don’t allow any shot to impact your thinking. Stay focused on the next shot, the next rally, the next move. Play just one shot at a time, but don’t lose sight of the game and the set and the match.’ That gave Rafa the solace he was looking for -- reprieve from the cacophony in his own head -- mind, so to say -- that ran so amok almost all the time. In fact, the humans need this reprieve -- from the ruckus in their own heads, the chaos in their own hearts ...! For me, this is actual solace one must look for -- freedom from unwantedness in thought, freedom from the confusion that is almost always one’s own creation, one’s own failure to remain focused on the destination ...! Poets and song-writers and authors have spent their energies seeking solace from the starting points of their endeavours in literature -- the blank page.
So, said a celebrated author once -- “Don’t keep staring at the blank page. Just type a few words -- may be nonsense. Then that will offer you the solace you are seeking from the blankness at the start”. Solace -- again! It is actually a very simple word, so to say. Yet, it is very deep in its import in human thought. True, solace may mean freedom or comfort from some material discomfort, some natural calamity, some physical illness. But almost in all these, solace actually comes from the sense of coolness one attains by sorting out things in the head. Solace, thus, has a spiritual core as well, apart from the multiple psychological dimensions.
It is one word for which the human race gets into all sorts of activities -- Sukh (happiness), Samadhaan (satisfaction) ...! And once those ephemeral goals are achieved, there is solace. This is the metaphor of human effort -- seeking escape from the trash that mind keeps throwing up all along, the terrible conflict the mind often experiences between good and bad, right and wrong, white and black, fair and unfair. The sages, however, are a different breed. They find solace in making their minds free from that unwantedness that ordinary mortals allow their lives to get afflicted by. And at one such moment when the sage Patanjali realised that mind was the cause of all the trouble or triumph, he stated that terrific principle in his Yogasutra: Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho! Solace, thus, is the most essential requisite of a burden-free mind that keeps one free from illness and basking in wellness.