UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

POETRY: ‘Modern Man’s Alienation’


Contributed by: Ryan Hughes, psychology major

“Our alienation goes to the roots.  The realization of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life.  Viewed from different perspectives, construed in different ways, and expressed in different idioms, this realization unites men as diverse as Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Tillich, Heidegger, Freud and Sartre.”

-R.D. Laing-


“Modern Man’s Alienation”


To be in a state of alienation

is the condition of modern man


if you don’t understand your own alienation

let me try to give you an explanation


We are alienated from our work,

where work means nothing

except a pay day and a raise,

or a busyness to help us

run away from its hopeless sense

of meaninglessness-its empty glaze.


We are alienated from each other

as we are just too busy

to simply slow down

and learn something

of our foul and lovely internal gutters


We are alienated from our land

in the most profound way

as we no longer even know

the comfort of silence

or the sweet fluttering song

of the earth’s rich mothering bond


We are alienated from

Any sense of community,

For there is too much

Fragmentation, internally

And externally,

To find any sense of unity.


We are alienated from ourselves

as we no longer seek the

silence of reflection

that returns us to oneself

because we are constantly

running away from ourselves.




We give ourselves no

time to return to the Self,


Because we are as alienated

from Solitude


as much as we are immersed

in the molasses of the multitude.


We no longer search or thirst


for a higher state of

freedom or clarity of thought,


because we have been

bought and sold

on the economic whore market.


Alienation is the state

of modern man


It exists in you,

and it exists in me.

If you do not see this fact,

you better do some reading and reflection

because you are missing a large

piece of modern’s man condition.


This must be repeated again and again


Because the realization of this

is where we all must start

if we are ever to understand

the poverty that exists

in all our hearts.


Any serious reflection must

have this starting point

if we want to understand

our unceasing restlessness.


For heaven’s sake, just for a start,

go read Kierkegaard or Hegel,

or Marx or Sartre


They will give you a head start

in the understanding of the alienation

that is at the heart


of all aspects of the personal realities

that invariably keep us apart.


Why can’t we see the barren boon

of the emotional and spiritual tragedy

of our inter and intra personal realities?


If you have the ambition to get

a read on this sad condition,


Turn your view to the select few

with the vast view.


They are, as Pound would say,

the antenna of the race.


They will help you fine tune

your perception to this sad

and stale state of alienation.


This is a quest we should all pursue,

If we want to get a grasp

On a larger lynchpin of truth.


And what the great thinkers of the past

and present day

attempt to portray


is a profound and deep sense

of a tragic inner decay.


This decay can be expressed

in many different ways.


But the one with the most

clarity and coherence


is the one that makes you think of it

as a complete fragmentation of experience.


It has been split in a myriad different ways


And the people with enough sense

try to get a handle on this

mysterious but sad malaise.


The great thinkers try to show

that becoming normal means letting go

and departing from the structure of being


Left only with a crippled and dulled

state of poverty of feeling.


Instead of possessing a symphony

of feeling, and learning how to create

a jazzy opera in a place of silence


we are shot to pieces only

left with the broken pieces of

a fragmented experience.


Our relation to our inner content is as vague

as knowing that china is in the orient.


We negate, deny, project,

introject and alienate


the wholeness that was

once our god-given being’s presence


And all we are left with now is

an essence and appearance

with no rich inner existence.


We run away from the Self,

causing our own

worthless hollow shells.


We cut ourselves up

and split ourselves in two…

No, not only just two, many more

than just a few.


In the end, we are

only left with black and blue


We cannot see the

nature of own bad faith

because our consciousness

often doth wear a deceptive false face


And a pure fool knows not cliche

coloring shades of grey


I keep asking myself,


being stuck with such a fate,

how did we arrive in such

a stale and dead inner state?


This is a question many a great

men and women have pondered


And they seem to be

where I am at, thinking

deeply about the quandary

of this paradoxical anomaly


Finding no answers,

and without a clue


They simply venture forth

into the unknown,

to see if they can come up

with something new


to help maybe just a few,

maybe me and you


They simply go forth into

the great yonder


and dig into the depths of their minds

to find the hidden gems

that exist in our mysterious mental mines


They somehow find new and higher forms of thought


to try to get a hold on this perplexing spiritual knot.


But as Yeats once lamented,

we no longer know

the learner from the learned,

or even the Is from the Ought


So just as Yeats lost his ladder


I have lost mine too.

So I am going to do what

he did to stand apart


And go forth to where

all ladders of thought start,


“in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”