I often hear our society defined as ‘alienated’, the realm of alienation.
In 2017 I dedicated one of my artistic projects to the city of Rome, a megalopolis that, from the very first day of its foundation, had to face this issue.
For the ‘Eternal City, ‘ alienation is a condition of daily life. In this reflection, I will briefly talk to you about the multiple meanings that the Latin word ‘alienus’ has assumed up to the present day.
STRANGERS, BUT ONLY AT THE FIRST MEETING
The first meaning of alien is foreign, strange, or outsider.
Since the dawn of time, Rome has been a city that welcomes anyone who arrives within its walls amicably, as long as they are always willing to follow its laws and customs.
If you are willing to adapt, you are immediately considered one of us.
So the first rule says: if you don’t want to feel like a stranger, it’s enough to be respectful and polite in a house that is not yours.
You will be considered different, but not strangers.
NO, I DON’T FEEL INVOLVED
Alien can also mean distant, in the sense of ‘ not feeling involved ‘.
The meaning can also be more extreme: hostile, adverse and contrary.
Large metropolises often predispose to these moods, especially those with miserable lives and failed relationships.
But Rome, by its very nature, has one heart that admits nobody to be continually treated hostilely. Rome is so extended that you will eventually meet someone in the same condition as you. Rome loves everyone.
The mirror name of ROME is AMOR: love.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND NOT RECOGNISE YOURSELF
This situation can happen to everyone.
After a night of revelry, you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and be shocked.
Unfortunately, some people feel increasingly split in two every day, even if they don’t drink or use drugs.
And slowly but surely, the distance becomes unbridgeable and the surrounding world a hostile place.
They no longer know where to flee to find protection and shelter; they feel like strangers, even in their own bodies.
Mental illness becomes the only company, their escape route.
In 1548 Rome officially opened a structure to welcome the ‘poor crazy people, that is, all those who are poor in the brain and crazy of any sex and nation’.
And during many centuries, the hospital of ‘Santa Maria Della Pietà’ restored thousands of people to social life.
Throughout history, not all societies have rejected, tortured and vilified the mentally ill.
NOTHING BELONGS TO ME ANYMORE
To alienate can also mean getting rid of something or antagonising someone.
It is said ‘to alienate an asset’ or ‘to alienate someone’s trust ‘.
All of this can be painful, but it can also be a release.
The coin always has two sides.
GOOD NEWS – OMNIA MEA MECUM PORTO
The last note I want to write is not about alienation. On the contrary, it is about something no one can alienate and ever lose.
Our personal history and the knowledge we accumulated through thousands of life experiences are our true wealth, the wisdom we gained through joy and pain.
Anything can happen to us during our lifetime, any kind of misfortune ranging from the banalest to the most terrible.
But as Biante of Pirene (one of the Seven Greek Elders ) said: all I have that is most precious is always with me.
So, with this great news, that’s all, folks.
And remember to say hello to the aliens for me.
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