Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why alienation?

My older daughter and I did a quick run up to Shaw Island this weekend and found it a very restorative experience.  We brought along our favorite foods (stopping at the Shaw Store for breakfast milk and Lopez Island Creamery's fabulous Coconut ice cream), and after dinner we spent a lovely evening with old friends, catching up on each others' lives and community affairs.  

Saturday morning included a trip to the Shaw Library (where I used to serve as librarian) before heading down to the ferry; we each took pictures of the daffodils before heading in to check out the latest additions to the collection.

I'm still thinking about what Bamford says about starting out as one, and then the fall into separation; wondering if the separation he's describing is what Eckhart Tolle (in my reading this morning from A New Earth) calls alienation.  Tolle says people trapped in the egoic state "are alienated from themselves as well as from others and the world around them... They are not present in any situation, their attention being either in the past or future, which, of course, exist only in the mind as thought forms... Alienation (Tolle goes on to say) means you don't feel at ease in any situation, any place, or with any person, not even with yourself.  You are always trying to get "home" but never feel at home."

The implication here is that the alienation is kind of a choice; that we allow ourselves to get caught up in our thought patterns, and that's what alienates us.  But is it entirely a choice, a function of selfish decisions?   I'm trying to understand how it is that, though I've lived where I live now for over 11 years -- longer than I've EVER lived ANYWHERE in my entire life -- I still feel separate here.  And yet when I go back to Shaw, even though I only actually lived there 3 1/2 years, I feel so very much at home, as if people there speak the same language I speak, and care about the same things I care about.

When I'm on Shaw it's very easy to be present.  Partly because there's no internet or TV to distract me, of course.  But I feel engaged, included; something that continues to elude me here, despite some dear friends and participation in several different groups within the community.  Perhaps it is just a choice, but could it at least be a mix of possible reasons; that the kind of people who would choose the sort of rural existence Shaw offers would have different approaches and values than those whose lives involve more exposure to more urban expectations?

Perhaps what I'm trying to say is that alienation or separation -- whatever gifts it may bring, either in terms of a "school of empathy" or in terms of creativity (Tolle cites some of the greatest writers of the twentieth century -- Kafka, Camus, Eliot, and Joyce -- who "recognized alienation as the universal dilemma of human existence" and "show us a reflection of the human predicament so that we can see it more clearly") -- may also be a function of displacement; that for each of us some places may just feel more like home than others, and some people may just feel more like family than others.

Or. Maybe it really has been some sort of unconscious choice, some invisible barrier I've erected to protect a growing need for privacy...  ah, well.  Fortunately (as Tolle is quick to tell us) "To see one's predicament clearly is a first step toward going beyond it."  Maybe it's enough to recognize the problem and be more conscious about the choices I make...

1 comment:

Louise Gallagher said...

Good questions you raise here Diane.

Perhaps it's why when I'm on the coast, I feel so 'at home' even in the city, whereas here on the prairies, I've never yet felt at home -- I am displaced internally, away from the waters of life...

hmmmm... thoughts to ponder. Thanks!