Inquiry: Estrangement – Introduction

Credit: The Seventh Seal. Swedish Film. (1957), Ingmar Bergman, Director

by LJ Frank

We are imprisoned in life in the company of persons powerfully unlike us ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a terrible alienation in the ordinary man between what he is being told and what he secretly believes ~ John Le Carré

Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday ~ Albert Camus (1942)

Illusions are more common than changes in fortune ~ Franz Kafka, The Castle

Estrangement implies remoteness and alienation from each other and our own self. It’s psychological, physical and spiritual. Is it a natural part of human existence? Do other mammals experience estrangement? Are the causes of estrangement both natural and or artificial? Is life a mere chess game with death?

In a materialistic world competition reaches a stage of fruition through comparing oneself to others, rather than merely comparing oneself to oneself and it becomes woven in the fabric of our life.  Comparison, competition and materialism appear to be three of the common characteristics of estrangement and the idea of fitting in with family, work, education and a myriad of other relationships. Fitting in may be considered a form of conditioning of that illusive entity we call the soul.

Does the design of our environment – our dwellings in which we work and sleep, effectuate estrangement?  Can art, architecture and music assuage estrangement? Do humans allow only the rich to have the greatest access to space filled with light, warmth and the uplifting of the human spirit?

Not everyone is created equal. Some people are short-changed at birth or later by accident – physical and mental disability or lack of a supportive network or how to establish one. Does estrangement lead to disillusionment with self and society? What are the manifestations of estrangement in the various contexts and textures of life? How does it affect our politics, the design of our dwellings, our institutions such as religion, education, government, and social and familial relationships amid voluminous aspects of existence?

How does one overcome the blatant conflict brought about by estrangement that filters down to all levels of relationships and where people may feel entrapped? What are the nuances and subtleties of estrangement below the surface?

This series seeks to understand some of the differing faces of estrangement and the crossroads it approaches for good or ill.