The Who, What and Why of Alien Nation
Welcome to Alien Nation, a newsletter committed to finding light in the darkest places.
This project emerged out of the same sense of crisis and urgency that got me started writing years ago after coming down with a disabling and life-rupturing chronic illness: to make sense of my experience, make use of my pain and find some way to feel human again. Over the years I’ve been writing for various magazines online and trying to win an argument with the world, my life and health have been falling apart and I've felt increasingly like a fraud. After coming in and out of the culture war and tackling various issues, I’m finally returning to the one issue that I started with and has most eluded me and which I can longer afford to escape: My own life, my own pain.
Alien Nation is a collection of essays on human beings and the meaning of our suffering. In the main series steering this project, I’ll be looking back on my decade-spanning bout with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) — a debilitating and mysterious neuro-immune disease that is invisible from the outside, underserved and under-acknowledged in society and medicine and thus far without cure or treatment — to make sense of my experience and make use of my pain and paint a broader picture of human suffering and meaning in modern life. The aim is to grasp and articulate what has been an overwhelmingly strange and painful and humiliating and terrifying and downright confusing experience in a human and humanizing way that other people with different experiences and problems can understand and relate to and even find some meaning and value in to apply to their own lives and their own problems. Each essay will endeavor to draw larger human and cultural meanings from particular moments and experiences along this journey, looking at each specific part through some kind of narrative wholeness. If I can squeeze from this experience and this pain something that I and other people can use in any way to make their lives better, that would make it all mean something — that would make my life worth something: that would put my pain to good use.
Most of the essays in the series will be freely available and some may be partially paywalled, especially as we move along here. Between the larger essay series will be shorter posts, excerpts and notes on similar subject matter, reflections on reflections. All my favorite things are in some way related to suffering and how people find meaning through or despite it, so anything I write or say will almost certainly have to do with that. While this newsletter may be slower coming than others due to my condition, I can say with confidence that this is where my time and energy and attention and heart and soul will be going for the foreseeable future.
This is all coming from my own personal effort and struggle to come to terms with the reality of the situation with my illness: To use my experience and my pain, which is all I have to use, to become a more conscious human being and to change, and possibly even save, my own life, which is the only life I will ever have to live. This disease alienates me from life and other people and my own deeper nature and higher potential — hence the name — and the mission and purpose of this project for me is to look at my own suffering and darkness and limitations and vulnerabilities and everything that’s happened over the last decade plus with this illness and use that energy of seeing to understand myself and my situation better and find my way back into the world on my own terms. This is about looking at the things in ourselves and the world which make life so painful and terrifying and humiliating and strange to us and using our experience and our suffering to understand the experiences and the suffering of other people to ultimately become more human.