I have been giving a lot of thought lately to “Home”. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps it is because of the transient nature that my life has had for the past number of years. Maybe it is because of the number of places in which I have lived – each having to become home. Then, there has always been this feeling of being outside, not part of and somehow not belonging. Yes there has always been, as long as I can remember, the feeling that this is not where I belong – that home is somewhere else.
I have explored these feelings in some of my other writings; I have discussed them with my family and have given much contemplation to where they emanate from. I know it is partly due to the fact that we grew up in Newfoundland, with an immigrant mother (Scottish), which made us different and not really “one of them”. I believe it evolves from our own mother’s “longings” for home after arriving as a war bride and not having the opportunity to visit home for over twenty years. I appreciate that it also comes from our dad’s having to return home after six years of worldly “adventures” as a sailor on a minesweeper in the Second World War. How does one fold oneself back into from whence you came when you have such opportunity to see the bigger world with all its wonder – good and bad?
I have been fortunate to explore these issues in my work over the years. This has occurred through visits to expatriate Newfoundlanders across Canada where “home” has been given mystical proportions. It was evident in my work in Scotland where those that have left throughout the generations are considered to have achieved something more than those that stayed. It certainly is visible in my work here in Quebec where after years of strife English and French alike appear willing to create a new home, despite the machinations of politicians of all stripes.
But, what is home. Is it the mystical place of memory, which many people pine for after they leave, but when they eventually return, find very different? Time and change does that. Is it the place of our roots from which our forefathers left for a myriad of reasons? Or is it the place where we set down our own roots, creating a home, finding ways to belong, to fit in and to feel valued. Perhaps home is even more mystical than that. Maybe this traditional sense of home is not even achievable in a world where vagaries of mystery are supplanted by cold hard facts of research. We have created in this world a belief, that home is less important, has little value and only the basis of emotional tales. Of course, the tales have a value in that they can be sold for commercial benefit – it appears the financial benefit is the only one that has significance.
Home to me has a number of dimensions. There is the physical home or the place of our physical shelter. This in itself has so many dimensions that one sees when one is fortunate to travel. Money and resources are only but one dimension of this particular aspect of home. I have been with people who have resources but couldn’t avail of material to create the kind of home they would desire and I have been with others who were content with their own minimalistic homes no matter their resources. The opposite is also true. What I have discovered is that people who have created “home” in their physical shelter will welcome and share it with you no matter its frugality or grandness.
There is the emotional home, the warm secure place that provides safety, an environment to relax and be oneself. Even the so-called homeless, for the most part, discover or create this aspect of home in the fringe areas and squalor that become their home.
Then there is the home of the mind, that repository of memory of what home used to be, even though the memories have become shrouded by emotions, clouded with nostalgia and softened by the passage of time.
And, of course, there is the fundamentally important spiritual home, that which provides the very connection to life itself. This aspect of home is what really enables us to put the other aspects of home in perspective.
We have, in this era of life, created a world where home, in all its facets, has been diminished. Our physical home is but another asset to be traded for economic return when the time is right. It is only of economic importance and has to be shed when the economic returns are diminished. When the communal economic environment shifts, as it always does in any environment, people are encouraged to abandon home and move elsewhere to where the opportunities are greater. Little thought is given to the investment (other than cash) that one puts into creating a home.
Over the past several years a very narrow view of home has emerged that suggests that there is no place we can or should call home. We need to be more mobile and transient to avail of the so-called “opportunities” that are developing elsewhere. It is a fact that people have always moved during times of distress, economic hardship or significant political shifts. People have always been encouraged or forced to move by governments to solve whatever dilemma they felt the need to address. But, those same governments have always failed to recognise, or were unwilling to accept the dilemmas they cause for the very people whom they moved. Our own Canadian history tells us of the hardships of this migration. It also is full of the traditions (reminders of home) to which people so arduously held dear.
The emotional aspect of home has been fragmented with the growing detachment of people to any concept called home. How else do we explain the growth in emotional illnesses and the development of a whole sector that provides counselling, guidance and treatment? The traditional home with extended families and long term friendships have been traded for consumerism, manufactured entertainment and created diversions from the benefits that home provided and the responsibilities that home required.
So driven have we become for the security of things, that we have negated the safety of relationships with others. We have willingly diminished the very foundations of home. These foundations were created with a belief in self, of family, the importance of friendship and a spiritual power greater than all the others combined.
We have thus generated a real crisis in our society today, one of spiritual disconnectivity within ourselves, and ultimately, a disconnectivity with life itself. This can be evidenced in the growing restlessness emanating from the sense of alienation, aloneness and emotional stress with its ensuing visible rage in people of all ages.
It will require a renewal of awakening of the value and benefits of “Home” to stem the tide of dislocation that we are witnessing in the world today. Creating the much acclaimed “Global Village” will only happen if we respect the needs of people to have their own sense of home in whatever locale or village they decide to reside and live their lives.