What does being “home” mean?

I have been thinking about the idea of “home” a lot recently. Writers, particularly novelists, are linked to place – or “home”. It’s impossible to think of Charles Dickens and not to think of Dickens’ London; impossible to think of James Joyce and not to think of Joyce’s Dublin; and so with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, William Faulkner— each is inextricably linked to a region, as to a language-dialect of particular sharpness, vividness or idiosyncrasy. We are all regionalists in our origins, however “universal” our themes and characters, and without our cherished hometowns and childhood landscapes to nourish us, we would be like plants set in shallow soil. Our souls must take root — almost literally.

For this reason, “home” isn’t a street address or a residence, or, in Robert Frost’s cryptic words, the place where, “when you go there, they have to let you in” — but home is where you find your most cherished relationships. Anyone’s idea of home takes a beating when he or she moves, disconnects with people or changes careers. But anyone’s home is also beautifully defined by the relationships he or she sustains with family and friends. These loving relationships are home. Therefore, home is not a location or physical space but a commitment to the ones you love.

Thinking of being “home” brings definitive happiness to me. And to me, happiness is a product of the sustained practice of love – that is, demonstrating love in all intimate relationships whether familial, friendly or romantic.

Instead of trying to summarize, I am pulling straight from a book I have currently been reading by Georg Feuerstein.  The following passage speaks to how achieving happiness is a product of a sustained practice of love – and in my eyes, sustaining a practice of love with those we cherish is what cultivates the state of being that is “feeling at home”.

Love is not a temporary high or feeling of elation. It must be cultivated as a continuous disposition. As tough as it may be, we must love even when we feel slighted, hurt, angered, bored or depressed. Happiness is a steady application of our capacity in all life situations. Even in our worst moments we must extend our love, or fundamental respect, to others. Even though life consists of peaks and valleys, our overall commitment must be to what is revealed in our brief spells on the peaks. This is not to say that that we cannot feel sorrow – because we can. Even in sorrow there is an undercurrent of bliss and happiness that is accessible if we so choose to be aware of it.

So how do we extend love at all times to achieve happiness and to feel at home? Well, Love is not merely benign or a kind thought. Love is demonstrated in action. We have every right to distrust a person who continually assures us of his or her love but fails to express or manifest it to us and to others. To distrust someone, however, does not mean to reject him or her or to be otherwise unloving to ourselves.

Yes, love is demonstrated in action.  But more than being demonstrated in action, love is action. We can sit in our room for an entire lifetime and think loving thoughts about other people but if we never express our love to them, if we never actively share our love with them, we will not have loved.

The fact is that we are not incapable of love but are only afraid to love. For our love not to crumble under the onslaught of the lovelessness around us, it must be in surplus and it must be a steady force. Who can deny the lovelessness that surrounds us? It shows itself in a thoughtless remark, an inappropriate silence, a tasteless joke, an aggressive move, turning away from another’s pain, the failure to really listen, the pursuit of orgasm at the expense of caring – all the many ways we hurt one another out of ignorance, inattention or sheer unwillingness to make a relational gesture.

We must try to understand the robotic ways in which we block out love. We must become sensitive to our own habitual lovelessness so that love can become an attractive force in our lives. We must love concretely. That is to say that we must give our love to specific beings. And we might as well start with those closest to us. What we will find is that loving them is easy and at other times it is the hardest thing imaginable. To really love is a great discipline because we must love stably and consistently and regardless of whether or not our love is returned. In other words, we must love despite or likes and dislikes. We must simply allow love to be a transformative force in our lives. Allowing is the key.

Love is not something we can “do”. Love, much like feeling at “home”, is a state of being. By dedicating ourselves to loving experiences and relationships we not only achieve happiness but we also establish a sense of place, or “home”.  Ultimately, we create a framework from which everything revolved (past), revolves (present) or will revolve (future). In essence, sustaining love, or at least genuinely dedicating ourselves to attempting to do so, creates the personal reference point of an individual’s existence.

Since I’m in a loving mood, Twofer Tuesdays for the Song of the Day

Music for Today: Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Up from Below, 2009)

Music for Today:  Fire, Augustana (Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, 2008)

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. – Mother Teresa

Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other.  It is the place of confidence.  It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts.  It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule. – Frederick W. Robertson

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