Begin, maybe, with the pillows. Perhaps home lies in the softness of a pillow, in the lush comfort of it, our heads lolling, our hearts singing soft songs. Perhaps home is not the big things we think it is, the mighty costly things. Perhaps it is in the small tender solace we crave, the peace of needed silence, of sweet sleep, soft dreams and belonging. Perhaps because our feet walk thorny grounds we cannot trust, because there are weights too eager to press themselves onto our backs and bodies in this long long big big fierce world.
Begin, maybe, with the feeling. Begin with how this feeling does not need glass and fancy walls and shiny surfaces but simply a sense of abode, of rest. We can build homes out of wood and have pillows of stone. We can improvise with what our hands can find, shafts and racks and shacks can still be home, can’t they?
Begin, maybe, with the complexity.
I once asked about five friends, “We say there is no place like home but what is home? Is it a place, a feeling or a feeling of place?
At first, they approached it with some sort of hesitation, some sense of uncertainty.
Most of them initially shrugged or muttered, “I don’t know.”
Just pick one, I insisted. Just try.
It was interesting how the males I asked were quick to say a place while most of the females believed it was a feeling and then one person out of the five said a feeling of place.
Home, to me, is a feeling of place.
We fight for home. We kill a cockroach. We sneeze and hiss when home is too cold, too hot or too stuffy. We fight for home. We fight for it in small ways we are not conscious of. Sibling fights, husband versus wife fights, remote fights, chore fights.
We fight for home, for a sense of place and belonging – and perhaps this is the most complex of it all. We do not want a home that burns us. We want the pillows and the softness – not necessarily luxury beyond our pockets and heads – but that small tender pride of having somewhere to loll our heads, to have our hearts sing a soft rhythmic tune, to enjoy stillness after all the noise of the world.
The trouble about being homeless is about this tender pride, not four walls, not luxury. A man on the streets is not just homeless in the sense of walls and bricks and concrete but this pride. Let’s not talk about forced migrations and slum demolishment. Let’s not talk about people who have the best of walls and bricks and concrete but do not have that pride of comfort, that feeling of home, that sense that in a burning world, home would not burn, home would not fleet. Home would stay, and grant peace and rest.
Let us not talk about the homes that burn, the marriages in wild wild flames, severed ties between siblings and parents and intruding relatives. Let us not talk about these, let us not talk about homes that are complexly broken, let us simply stick to the peaceful allegory of pillows. Let us remain light, soft, restful even.
What makes us think we can find home in places we do not know? Places that jar us with new lights or new darkness – depending where. Places that defy our origin, that make us question all we have known, places where we suddenly bear a new weight of difference. Let us not talk about inequality, tribes, race, injustice and culture shocks. There are more than enough migration narratives really. I just find it intriguing how, in the wildest of places, we still want home.
If such a place cannot be sweet as home, where we have always been, can we build homes out of people? Why do we crave for home in a person, why do we feel we have found home when we find someone of similar burdens, when a new thick bond breaks the space? How much weight can we shed onto our beloved? Can they be pillows, soft masses to carry the buzz in our heads?
How much of home can we find in a person? How much does it matter when we are unable to?
How much of home can we invoke in a foreign land? Is there a limit to how much we can feel at home in lands that do not know our names and forefathers?
Do we find home or does it find us? How far do the borders go? How hard do we have to prove we are worthy to be at home to people of a land who feel we are not?
Is difference an illusion? Is it significant enough to alter home? Are we really that different after all?
There is no place like home, we say. But where is that place? Is it buildings? Is it our bodies? Is it our families? If our families and bodies burn and we do not find home in anyone or anywhere, what then do we call home?
Is home static or dynamic? Fluid? Constant? Walls, concrete, windows and doors? Everything definite?
When we say there is no place like home, are we referring to a definite quality? Is place made of land and buildings and structures, or the unseen? Is place internal, in us? Does it always have to be what we can hold and see and touch?
Is home our faith? Is it the reasons we give when circumstances unexpectedly pop their way into our lives, the solace we find in holy words and gatherings? If we are unfortunately unable to make a home out of people and places and family, do we carve out a space within us for God to find home? Or does that space naturally exist? Does that space widen when we can’t find home elsewhere? Can home be the gift of space itself? Can it be faithlessness, a wild looseness in what we should consider definite and sacred like others?
Home should be a fluid. How much of it can we hold? How much of it can we find? How much would it matter if we do not find or if we have none?
If home does not knock, do we build the door? Do we walk into what we have constructed, touch the walls of it and take a deep breath. Does it offer a room to shed off all the weight, to loll our heads and let our hearts sing? Do we feel the small pride of solace fill us? Do we find a pillow there?