“Home where my thought’s escaping, Home where my music’s playing, Home where my love lies waiting…” Paul Simon
Paul Simon sang about it in his 1966 hit song Homeward Bound. The world over are many men who dream of it. In Biblical history Moses and his people spent 40 years searching for it. The idea of where home is or where home was never leaves us. We may feel out of touch at times as if there isn’t a place for us but even in our transitions there are locations.
Are all homes made of brick and mortar? In Hebrew the word beyt means home or tent. A traveller would take up his home and carry it with him on his camel or ass. Are homes fixed in place or maybe they are more about memory and emotional residue in the heart than tangibility?
Some men feel better sailing on the high seas yet isn’t a ship a home? Where do you rest your head?
The thought of home seems to be as tangible a thing as a lump in our throat. We can’t see it but we know that it’s there. The feeling of what a home is seems to be stuck in our soul. It seems as if it is ‘built’ into us.
What about those who do not feel ‘it’ or feel as if they haven’t actually known a place called home?
Home. Each man’s dream of home is different from his brother’s but in the end aren’t all of these dreams the same? Keep in mind that a habitat and a home are different things. Solitude and loneliness are different too. Or are they? Whether we walk to our home in solitude at midnight near quiet harbors, or trek across endless dunes and shifting sand aren’t those senses the same?
We can cut through straight alleys or follow the curve of a river where cherry blossoms grow. Whether it is brick or stone or logs or iron bars, a home must provide man the feeling of inward peace no matter how large it outwardly sprawls. Whether it is a metropolis or a mud hut a home should provide comfort.
F0297C Aerial view of Palmanova – Province of Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region, Italy
If we live in our home or if our city is our home or if our country is our home, how then do we rid ourselves of the disconnection we sometimes feel for the rest of the world? How does a man shut down the outside distractions that blind him to his inner peace? Does he have peace? What if he came home from war and didn’t have peace?
Sometimes a man has to escape his dwelling and find home elsewhere as depicted in the 1972 movie directed by Sydney Pollack called “Jerimiah Johnson.” The actor Robert Redford played a mountain man, escaping the aftermath of the Civil war, because he couldn’t live with the rest of the world. And so Jeremiah departed it. With pack in tow and rifle in hand he aimed to take up life supporting himself as a trapper. His first winter alone is a brutal one. Jeremiah might have died without the assistance of an experienced trapper that he meets in the wilderness on his first cold season alone. Do men need company to feel at home? For many of us much of that kind of rough going hilltop and tree-lined living is simply impossible or unpalatable to digest.
Perhaps we don’t go so deep and so dark into the forest but instead we should leave our fast food shops and much of what technology has to offer alone. Should we completely sever the cord or should we from time to time unplug from the world of modern conveniences? Perhaps much can be learned by listening to our internal voice that guides us deeper into an understanding of peace and to where our home is. For some a home is part of their self-definition. Some people like others to know the community in which they live, and the kind of habitat in which they’ve settled; they mow the lawn, plant trees, put permanent things down, and build relationships with others around their enclave. It is a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the community.
Some Westerners do not believe they are defined by the kind of property they possess. Their consciousness or sense of self and what a home is comes from their experiences and personality. In the exciting and inspiring movie Gladiator, the character Maximus (played by Russell Crow) knows that home is a place where his wife and son are. They are his safe harbor. They are his high tower. In the story Maxiumus has wealth, power, the love and respect of his men. He is a warrior but he is also a farmer.
Before the Romans battle the Germanic horde Maximus grabs soil and rolls it in his hand. He holds it to his nose and sniffs the dirt. Maximus knows what kinds of earth are good for planting. He also knows what home is. Before they do battle Maximus gives a powerful speech to his warriors. He is a remarkable man. The soil beneath his feet will soon be bathed in blood.
[Cavalry addresses Maximus]
Maximus: Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!
Maximus: Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.
In some Asian cultures a home is part and parcel of the whole person. In some Vietnamese traditions a Jinni lived beneath a village and brought good luck to the dwellers living above. Leaving fruit at the altar appeased the being. The Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist Frances FitzGerald went into great detail in her book Fire in the Lake to describe the relationship of the Vietnamese people to their land.
In the anime movie Princess Monoke, the plot concerns a woman who is trapped between the industrialized world and the world of nature. The forest gods war with the humans because they’ve depleted the forest’s resources. The cartoon’s Shinto faith-based plot mirror’s the reality of war in times past and today-The land is obliterated, scavengers make money by picking up brass from the old hulks of airplanes, tanks and weaponry. A land of farmers becomes a land of vagabonds. Trees are destroyed, land is scarred, and cities are filled with a tangle of cracked footpaths. A society is left homeless.
Perhaps Westerners have a different sense of mobility and possession yet regardless of race, or religion, or wealth or beliefs each of us wants a place to call home. It is only a matter of degree rather than a matter of kind of home that all men desire.
Homes should provide us with a measure of pleasure and simultaneously a measure of security, right? A modest home to some of us is also a mansion to others. The old saying, “everyman’s home is his castle” seems to ring true. Yet being boxed in is no way to go. Wealth and property are not things that unhinge a man. It is the man who is unhinged or becomes unhinged because of events. Property does not unhinge a man.
One definition of home is: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. It is a dwelling-place used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence.
Home for some men is a 6′ x 9′ cell room with bars for a door. A box. A simple box. Some have come to “accept” that a cell is their home while wealthy men such as Howard Hughes never felt at home. A prisoner must adjust his thinking in order to survive.
The ancients believed in the sacred geometry. Acolytes were killed for giving away the secrets of math. Cities were built using the ideas of perfect sides and proportions. Squares, circles and stars were some choices for an ideal city foundation. The cities of Nimrud, Ur, Babylon doubly served as fortresses and palaces. Slaves built most ancient cities. Nimrud is the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic name for the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu and believed by historians to have been named after the Biblical hunter Nimrod.
Centuries ago Babylon once housed nearly 200,000 people and was estimated to have been the largest city in the world. Folk etymology for Babylon has its roots as the gates of God. Root meanings abound in metaphors. Interesting to note that the word temple means place of God, and has been interpreted as place in the sky. Home may not necessarily mean a tangible location rather it might mean a place of affections. Home should be Heaven. Home should not be a place of fighting, screaming and pain. “Home is where the heart is” as we’ve all heard. But a man sleeping on a sofa for the night might tell you otherwise.
The highest that man can aspire when building a city is to follow the perfect proportions. The greatest of architects envisages a place with the greatest of social amenities. Urban planners and visionaries alike should want to design places free of social division, and persecution, revolution and violence, whether its occupiers are simply a husband and wife, or five separate clans living in separate boroughs. Thomas More wrote about Utopia in his book of the same name. His political philosophies were made known in this work of fiction. Men here desire a nation where rational thought permeates its walls. There are no class distinctions, and little exists in the way of immoral behavior or crime. 500 years before Communism rose, More described an ideal that can only exist in the mind. Utopia is defined as a place that does not exist.
More would not live to see the bloodiest century of them all, the 20th century, because of failed idealists like HG Wells, Shaw or Nietzsche. Wells wrote his book, The Shape of Things to Come and outlined his view on “social and political forces and possibilities.” In the story, in the British city of Everytown our protagonists meet men who form a civilization of airmen called “Wings over the World”. They seek to criminalize war and outlaw independent nations. They seek to conquer the stars. Wells, like his part-time lover Margaret Sanger (who founded Planned Parenthood) was a big believer in eugenics as a means of population control and the perfect race. Science and industry reduce the universe to a machine, and man is impacted. Years and decades later home becomes hell under men like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Mussolini.
How fascinating that those who espouse high ideals and the use of an ethical system to control others are usually the creators of nightmares. Man, acting as the great interpreter of solace interprets the world in his own fashion, and efforts to make a lasting, vision that will go on for length and perpetuity. Not all men share the same dream of peace. For some it is simply found in a small, cabin in the woods and for others it is creating tomes in high towers.
For every bright place there are dark ones too. Dark cities are spoken of in literature; London has been frequently mentioned in olden times as an industrial black mark in the soul of a once great Empire. It was filled with vileness and violence. Where do some men go for a respite from war and bad memories? The well praised soldier TE Lawrence had Cloud Hills. After his time among the Arabs he retreated away from public life and settled into his isolated cottage. His bright sanctuary was crafted near Wareham in the county of Dorset in South West England. He did not live long after moving into it.
The lintel over the door now bears a Greek inscription οὐ φροντὶς (“Why Worry”) from the Greek Hippoclides
While one man constructs another man is busy being destructive. The man who yearns to control and civilize and enrich his lot will most likely do so and in turn touch the lives of others. Sometimes man fights with man to build his home. Property disputes occur in small and large fashion. Amazonian Indians are moved from their jungle land in the Amazon to make way for a growing, more powerful civilization. Whether modern or not this world is filled with animals too. Mindless beasts like Daesh work to smash down ancient cities such as Palmyra. Nearly 70% of the Nimrud’s ancient relics have been smashed down. These men are dogs. Physical destruction is not as bad as destroying a society. No one can come back after that. The after effects are the refugees rush into the cities where there are jobs which creates an over reliance on the invaders as a necessity of survival. Jobs, soldiers, prostitutes, maids, shoe shine boys, blacksmiths exist where a sanctuary once stood.
William Penn settled Pennsylvania as a place for his Quaker brothers and sisters. A place where if they worked the land it would be attractive to others and tolerant of their religion. Planning done well creates cities that are largely beautiful and successful, such as Milan. Politics and social issues are different matters. Planning that is done poorly creates blight in cities like Detroit, Michigan. Ghosts of Detroit. Ghosts of Rome. The big automakers no longer create jobs or cars in Michigan. Much has been lost. Creators bring forth objects out of ideas; the loom, the printing press, the steeple, the archway, the compass. Some villages will only ever be villages. Some cities will grow or degrade. Many factors play into why places rise or fall. Iraq, a place filled with history and wonderful relics today is full of people who destroy all they touch. Tangible things are sterile things. It is man who provides value to those objects or devalues those objects Rome, Stalingrad, or Timbuktu…are meaningless without men to find meaning in occupying it.
In the book a Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway the story is about Harold Krebs. He is a soldier who returns home to Oklahoma after seeing action in the bloodiest World War I battles. His family and friends treat him as they did before he left for war. No one understands him or the stories he tells. He is disconnected from his old world. Home is not home. He is depressed or suffers from PTSD. He is a stranger in a strange land.
His story is not unknown to many who serve in todays modern military. I cannot claim that disconnect. For men like Krebs to exist they need to forget everything they are in order to survive. But for men like Krebs to live, they must be courageous and not live a lie. It is not better for the hero to live falsely. He must live openly for his wounds to heal or he will not have peace at home or abroad. Krebs must go forward regardless of how painful he believes it is. Men must have a refuge.
Warriors generally have friends who are dead and feel they cannot find the closure they want in this temporal world. What is the solution? Perhaps the living must tell themselves their friends are in Elysium. Warriors today call it by another name-Valhalla. In the movie Gladiator, Maximus’ family is murdered. That was a safe place of shelter for him. That was his harbor or his green field. At the ending of Gladiator after his battle with Emperor Commodus Maximus is mortally wounded and falls to the floor. Lucilla (played by Connie Nielson) runs to him. She tells him to let go and be with his wife and son. His work on Earth is done. In a dream, he returns home with the two of them waiting for him.
Marcus Aurelius learned how to shape his own life by controlling his thoughts. He accepted that life was filled with trials and tribulations. Life was not easy for him. He encountered many troubles as Emperor but he reasoned that the universe was fundamentally good. His place of peace, his inner sanctum or citadel, was his mind. Aurelius controlled that space. He shaped his life around believing that being virtuous empowered him to be courageous enough to face heartache. Any impediment in life was met with firm resolve to not be broken. His mind was his fortress and it was a home where peace settled. Peace lived within him. Nothing without could affect him.
This article started merely as an exercise for myself. I hope you found it enjoyable. I wanted to work out some kinks in my thinking. Whether brilliant or not I ask you to work to find peace in your heart. Surround yourself with friends, lovers, family and be grateful for the little you have. You have power over your mind. Find your strength and share it with others. You will not want to flee but rather choose to stay. Realize this-nothing can harm you. Home is where the heart is…
“Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations