I believe it was Sartre who coined the term “existential nausea” to describe severe alienation. I like to think that what I am feeling is morning sickness – in anticipation of the birth of my self-realized being. It seems ironic to me that, although I have experienced exquisite mystical insights, I still fall into pits of depression and alienation where words and actions seem only to emphasize a futility in human endeavors. Worse still is a deep shame that I am full of doubts when so many lovely flowers have been presented to me from the hands of existence. Words really don’t compensate for the alien gap, but just hearing the tenderness of your voice soothes the blown-out craters on the dark side of my moon. Would you speak on alienation?
The philosophy of existentialism has given a few new words tremendous emphasis. One of those words is alienation – to feel alien to oneself.
Man has always felt that he does not know himself. It is not something new; just the name is new and the emphasis is new. Twenty-five centuries ago Socrates was telling people, “Know thyself.” He was saying, “You are a stranger to yourself. You don’t know your being; you don’t know all the dimensions of your being. You don’t know, why you are here. You don’t know from where you have come, you don’t know where you are going. And most important, you don’t know whether you are or not.”
It happened…George Bernard Shaw was traveling from London to a small town in England. The ticket checker came into his compartment. He looked in all his pockets, in the suitcases, but he could not find the ticket. The ticket checker told him many times, “Don’t get so worried. You are a world-famous figure, I know you. You must have forgotten the ticket somewhere. When I come on the next run, I can see it. There is no hurry.”
He was trying to console the agitated George Bernard Shaw, but George Bernard Shaw was perspiring. Listening to his words he became very angry and shouted, “Shut up! I am not looking for the ticket for you. Now the problem arises, where am I going? Can you tell me?”
The man said, “How can I tell you?” George Bernard Shaw said, “Then don’t talk nonsense. I am not worried about you; I am worried about where I am going. Now what will happen to me?”
Everybody is going somewhere, certainly. And nobody is going to ask for your ticket, but still…those who are intelligent are themselves bound to inquire “Where are we going?”
But all these questions are secondary. The basic question is “Who am I?”