Othering others begins with othering ourselves: What was once an inseparable part of our whole is now exiled to our ghettoes of the damned; what was once a foible occasioning our expression is now defining vice and foreign lord, ruling like a tyrant we jettisoned to a crevice in the cosmos.
By setting at odds those parts — those immortal persons that cannot help but be one with us — we set at odds our inner realms with silent war and unending battle. Self-control, self-mastery, renunciation and fasting become our lofty sciences, sobering us with promises to wipe out every cosmic crevice populated with aliens we couldn’t bear to call family.
But at the end of the day, they cannot help but to live immortally as our family — no matter where they go or what we call them.
We are all the authors of alienation, and we all share a proclivity for annihilation. That which we elect as alien must be consigned to the oblivion, or baptized in nuclear fire so it no longer resembles the thing it was.
But life is immortal! And alienation makes life hostile! Just as Victor Frankenstein made his creation a monster.
Life turns against us when we try to destroy it. Just as you turn against others when you try to destroy yourself.
Such is what makes alienation the mother of pathology, under which we unite to elect the sick and healthy.
Ugh. The way I’ve written this column makes me feel sick. I wish I were a better writer — right now!
Wait, what, really? I’m fucking with myself, for no reason. But I’m aware that I’m fucking with myself, and I don’t have to let it bother me that I’m fucking with myself and that I’m unhappy with myself as a writer.
I’m gonna call my own bluff. If bettering these things about myself really means something to me, then I’ll do so. But, if the pain I feel from my unhappiness outweighs my desire to better myself, then I must find meaning in the pain. Then the pain, as I experience it, is something good, not pathological. But maybe I’m messed up because I enjoy this pain, which smacks of the pain of my childhood. Maybe I feel familiar with that kind of pain than I do the contentment with being a good writer. After all, I’ve spent more time with that kind of pain than the feeling of being a writer.
Do I really identify with that? Is that part of my story? Ah! Even if it is, I don’t have to feel shitty about it. Can’t I just leave it as it is and learn to cohabitate? I learned to cohabitate with HIV, and I’m plenty happy — even now.
Yeah. I feel a little bit better now that everything is out in the open. I still want to get better as a writer, but I’m OK with not being OK with the kind of writer I currently am. If change in this way is meaningful for me, then I’ll take the necessary steps. If not, then I’ll learn to live with the pain, which isn’t bad anyway. And I’m sure I’ll learn something from it that’s meaningful for me. I’ll change, nonetheless. Being a good writer wouldn’t be the one trait that makes me happy anyway. Lots of things make me happy and make me myself.
“Alienation is the mother of pathology.” Ha! Who the hell do I think I am? Some stuffy metaphysician of the Enlightenment Era? Ah, well, it’s fun, and the theatrical baritone does suit me. It also makes it impossible for anyone to take me seriously when I get angry.
The sick? The healthy? You have cancer, I don’t. I have HIV, you don’t. Where does healthiness end and sickness begin? Something is chemically off inside you. Of course I understand. Don’t feel bad about it. Really. You’ve got a lot going on right now, but try to keep things in perspective, all right? I’ll help you in any way I can, and tell you not to get down on yourself along the way.
But we have to work together, OK?
We’re all in this together, folks. Even when people say we’re not, we are, immortally, together.
Aaron Stella is former editor-in-chief of Philly Broadcaster. He has written for several publications in the city and now devotes his life to tackling the challenges of HIV in the 21st century. Millennial Poz, which recently won first place for excellence in opinion writing from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and best column writing from the Local Media Association, appears in PGN monthly. Aaron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.