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Eliot and Alienation

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Aug. 8th, 2011 | 08:47 am

Recently a friend posted on FB that he missed England. While he did study there, he is American and has been living abroad in countries other than England for the last few years.

That got me to thinking once again about T. S. Eliot, some of whose poetry I've been reading this summer. I picked up where I had left off in The Waste Land and Other Poems. "Ash Wednesday" is beautiful, and I prefer it to "The Waste Land." It was more centered--or should I say "centred" (haha)--and less fragmented than "The Waste Land." It makes sense that it would be, since Eliot had by that time converted to Anglicanism. I also read somewhere that he had been growing estranged from his first wife at around that time, and that they had separated or divorced soon afterward.

I found even greater intimacy in the shorter poems "The Journey of the Magi" and "Marina." In both of these poems, a journey is undertaken and, upon return "home," the hero (or the travelers), having experienced extraordinary things away from home, find(s) himself/themselves alienated from his/their familiar surroundings. And then it hit me: maybe this is just the way it is supposed to be. Dropping the guilt, dropping the self-blame, dropping the blame of others, and just experiencing what there is to experience, that's what it feels like to develop in ways that others in one's environment have not done or are not doing. It may be that the sense of alienation is permanent, or it may be that it is a way station on the road to Someplace Else (if such a "place" does actually exist).

That's what it feels like when one goes to university when none of one's ancestors has done that. That's what it feels like when one has had initiations from spiritual masters and none of one's ancestors or companions has done that.

This weekend I went with my partner to visit his family. I'm getting to the point where I'm just allowing myself to feel bored and uninspired when I feel bored and uninspired, rather than feel that I'm supposed to make my experience into something that it clearly is not, or to try harder to act engaged and interested.

Many times I have gotten down on myself for putting up with bullshit from friends in the past several years. OK, but since those problematic people are out of my life, the fact is that I haven't made any new friends. At some point I need to trust myself more regarding my assessment of the actual resources of my actual environment. Others may have resources available to them in their environments that are not available to me, so their assessment of my situation will do me no good. I may have had resources available to me at other times and places that I no longer have available to me here and now, but nostalgia and fantasizing will do me no good.

It's easy to talk about living in the "now" so long as that's really a cover story for fantasizing about future wish-fulfillment. It's not so easy to focus on "here and now" when maybe this is as good as it's going to get and perhaps things are just going to get more difficult from here on out, and yet there's a pervasive sense of emptiness that hovers over every thought and feeling. Until the bliss of detachment becomes its own reward, it seems that these dilemmas will keep cropping up.

Om Krim Kalyai Namaha,

ak

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mysticactive

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from: mysticactive
date: Aug. 9th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
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I like the TS Eliot element. I always liked his poetry and when I was in High School I chose him when we were asked to do a recitation for class. At the time I was also asked by my hardened atheist teacher (who was an older gay man that seemed to have developed a righteous anger against God after his partner's death from AIDS)to write a paper about postmoder meaningless eliot vs. religious eliot. I think he thought somehow I would see the atheistic 'light' that way. And for me, at least, what you say about travel is indeed both a blessing and a curse.

Oh man, this almsot shamanistic point about the ancestors: 111100000 % agreed.

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