Nietzsche is famous for descrying the deep gap between individuals. For him, people were like mind islands separated by a common language. Our ability of language and communication masked the fact that each of us was separated and totally apart within the confines of his or her own consciousness.
Once very convinced of this view, I've come to see things a bit differently.
I now see the problem of alienation and isolation as one which starts in language. Language is not the mask covering our isolated conscious minds, rather it is the shared vehicle that both unites and pulls us apart from one another. Language is generative. Within it we can distinguish, cut apart, separate, and mark ourselves as different and separate not only from others, but even from ourselves.
In the absence of conscious communication (e.g. language or sophistical symbolism), one can have hives, herds, flocks, etc... Even within the human social history, traditional community assumptions are so fiercely and often blindly guarded because they require a definite limit on how one is allowed to talk about them. As, too much talk tears things apart--it generates new ideas, reveals irresolvable tensions, witnesses to the absence of foundation at the heart of every principle we wish to ground as primary and irrevocable. Talk too much about anything sacrosanct must be avoided to preserve adequate stability, keeping members of a community united around a core of what should not be spoken. Simple, unconcious unity flourishes in the absence of competing discourses.
But open the gates of words and symbols, and endless attempts at expression, greater comprehensiveness and precision, we watch as torrents batter us about - sometimes producing new unities, often though merely fleeting connections, and, of course, plenty modern varieties of existential alienation. And this alienation is not only between people, we can also use language to feel alienated from ourselves.
This means the more I struggle to put into words exactly what I wish to say to you, leaving no stone unturned, vocalizing each fork and divergence in my mind, the more I become something different from who I was before I opened my mouth (or put hands to keyboard).
Communication entails a forever moving target. And every attempt to bridge the gap generates more gap. Because communication generates distance. It requires distance - stepping back to look at oneself and put it into words. The words distance the you now from the you before. Words fill the space between two people, a space that before words was perhaps not even seen as a space at all. Words bring alienation into being. Words are the fruit of the conscious mind. If for Nietzsche, the conscious mind is an island, then it is so because it inevitably speaks, and words are the water that join us and separate us from everything that exists. Words are the source of separation and higher forms of unity. But as long as there is talk, there is never a resolution, the cycle continues, pushing us all out like the very universe itself expanding from the Big Bang.
(Intimacy sits in the place where neither have something they feel they must say, a sanctuary from the birth pains of constant creation...)
*Still pondering on Schlegel's double movement of expansion and contraction as the two primal forces of Reality...and I definitely think speech can be thought of as a creative amalgam of these two forces. Ah how patterns repeat themselves, like fractal squiggles in the mind...