Dear Stranger – this is a very belated reply to your helpful discussion of, in your words, the “two…extremes” of the human condition, pagan egoism and civilised alienation. I think that’s a fair description of the polarity I felt after my Nimbin experience. The reason I’m writing now is that I’ve been motivated to do so by a recent incident which has helped me to put things in a deeper perspective.
As you know, I promoted the wedding anniversary song “Can’t Stand the Heat” on Facebook earlier this month, to coincide with Valentine’s Day. It did well, with more than 2,000 hits on Soundcloud and 1,500 likes, 54 comments and 284 shares on FB. For reasons I don’t quite understand, nearly all the responses were from South Africa, although I had also targeted Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK in the campaign. I can only assume there was some sort of bias in the FB algorithm; either that, or South Africans are a lot more romantic and sentimental than the rest of the English-speaking world. Personally, I incline toward the algorithm theory.
Now, here’s the thing: the (overwhelmingly positive) comments were mostly about the love that people felt for their long-term (and, in some cases, deceased) wives, husbands or partners (I was targeting a 30 to 65+ age demographic). It was a privilege to receive from absolute strangers open and emotional comments about an intimate matter of such importance to them. It reminded me of the familiar phrase and film title, “Intimate Strangers”, which neatly captures the tension between the intimacy of the comments I received and the fact that they were from people unknown to me. This polarity between intimacy and stranger-ness seemed to carry an echo of your ego-alien polarity.
And another echo: the one implicit in the words “Universal Stranger”—most of us are unknown to our fellow humans, but we all share a common or universal humanity.
This begins to look like what you call the middle way or the space between: a sense of half-connectedness with humanity in general, which is both forced upon us by the alienating effects of modern society and yet also made possible by the technology which is so much a part of that society. Conceptually, it looks like a paradox, but it lies behind what, for many of us, is a psychological truth: And then that voice said/You’ll always live/Between the Whirlpool and the Worm. (“Black Wave”)
Thanks for the insight. All I need to do now is figure out how to apply it in a practical way each day.