Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reflections: Beside Myself

People who have read my blog over the years and more recently, perhaps, those of you who have encountered me on Facebook and/or Twitter, may have noticed that I seldom write on personal topics. That’s just me being the introvert that I am. But I feel moved to say a few words about how I’ve been feeling for some time now, if only to put it out there where I can look at it myself.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been reading and hearing about something called “alienation.” Alienation, of one kind or another, forms the bases for everything from Marxist economics to existential philosophy to various schools of psychology, as well as for much of 20th century art, in every genre. For me, it was always interesting, but academic. I thought that I understood it well enough. I even believed that I had experienced it. I was, after all, in some senses, an “outsider.” Right?

Wrong. I have now experienced—am now experiencing—alienation as a tangible reality. I can be right here, in this familiar room where I am typing now; and I can look at everything and recognize it. I know exactly where other things are, even though I can't see them, on shelves, or in drawers—things that I use daily and may have owned for years. All these things I can see and know for what they are (thus, I remain fully functional), yet I no longer feel connected to them. I now understand the essence of the experience of being “beside oneself.” I can’t explain it any better than that.

I experienced the whole of creation that way, briefly, on an acid trip in 1969 or 1970. It was a classic “bad trip” and it scared the living shit out of me. But, at the same time, even as it was happening, and even though it felt completely real at the time, there was a part of my mind that knew that it was under the influence of the drug and that—despite the absolute conviction that I was finally experiencing the “real reality,” and that it was horrible and hellish—it would have an end. Thus I maintained my sanity.

That which escapes this feeling of disconnectedness is anything new. No connectedness has been lost there, because none previously existed. New songs, new friends, these seem to belong to the reality of a parallel universe in which connections exist. I feel like a character in a Phillip K. Dick novel; just as weird, and just as badly written. Please bear with me. I must have faith that this, too, will have an end.