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Estrangement • Posted: Sep 09, 2010 18:15:50Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

"Who is she? What is she doing out on that remote beach all alone dressed like that?"

I don't know the answer to those questions. But if I had to guess, I'd say she is an attractive, educated professional, who has recently felt a need for time alone to think and quiet her emotions. We are very reactive creatures. But increasingly, our professional lives demand less emotional reaction and more dispassionate wit. The problem comes when we begin to lose track of who we are and what we're all about. We become disconnected from some semblance of story that makes sense to us, sense to us in a compellingly emotional way, as opposed to seeming emotionally hollow and completely arbitrary. I suspect that lady on the beach is going through just such a period of emotional disconnect and has come to the peace and rhythm of the beach to work through the process of trying to reestablish an emotionally satisfying understanding of who she is and what her life is going to be about from this point on.

The problem for all of us, of course, is that things change. We change because we grow and develop, mature and then age. We might have some inkling that at some point in the future our bodies will change, our tastes will change, our abilities will change, our tolerances and interests will change, etc., etc. But we are never completely prepared. Plus, we live our lives within a kind of social niche, within a city, within a job, within a set of friends, even within a specific rhythm of day and night. Whenever any of those things change we are required to adjust, find a new equilibrium. And struggling all the time with that problem is the part of our brain that maintains a sense of meaningful narrative, telling us who we are, where we are going, and what will be required of us to maintain, act out, and build the next chapter of our narrative. But there are times when that part of our brain is stymied, the narrative we believed we were a part of suddenly changes, ends, or completely falls apart. We necessarily enter a period of estrangement where we search and question and tease our emotions with new possibilities, while at the same time mourn for possibilities now lost to us.

It's interesting to note that many religious rituals try to meet the needs of individuals searching for sense and meaning during times of estrangement.

Many years ago, cultural anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace coined the term "mazeway resynthesis" to describe that period when a culture had dissipated and its peoples were struggling to put together a new story for themselves within changed surroundings. With today's high unemployment and economic uncertainty for those still employed, we all seem to have entered into a period of mazeway resynthesis. Many loud voices are offering us stories of distrust, blame, hate, and endless strife, particularly as new elections approach. And unfortunately, many will buy into that type of story and act accordingly with guns and bombs, hateful divisive rhetoric, and of course their votes. But there are plenty of other stories that we might come up with and adopt, stories whose consequences are beautifully inspiring, peaceful, and desirable for all. May the story you develop for yourself be one of those.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010