Utne Blogs > Literature

On the Peculiar Alienation of Modern Life

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Great Writing, essay writing, Jay Griffiths, artifice, fakery, pastoral, modern life, natural world, UIPA 2009,

Orion“I asked one Inuit woman how she felt about the land,” Jay Griffiths writes in the latest Orion. “ ‘I remember it was beautiful,’ she said wistfully. The land was still there, a few yards from her door, thousands of miles of land as wide and beautiful as it ever had been but she was weirdly—artificially—alienated from it.”

The woman isn’t alone in her experience: In “Artifice v. Pastoral,” Griffiths riffs on the peculiar alienation that infects modern life—a dangerous estrangement that we’ve wrapped ourselves into with layer upon layer of fakery, from unsustainable energy use to manufactured wealth. The problem, Griffiths writes, is that all this artifice disconnects us from the natural world, confuses us about what’s real, and alienates us from one another.

Only an excerpt of the exquisite essay is available on Orion’s website, but in its stead the venerable, spiritual, environmental magazine offers a gem: A recording of Griffiths reading her entire piece aloud. Lovely.

Source: Orion