Home: An introspection
By Kane Grose
When I was a little kid, “The Wizard of Oz” was one of my favorite movies. I loved the oversaturated and surreal visual treat that Technicolor cinema offered. I loved the fairytale-like structure and archetypal characters that breathed life into the story. And I was intrigued by Dorothy’s persistence in returning to familiarity. “There’s no place like home!” she said, and while I was inclined to agree, my view of home was, and still is, markedly different to hers. Where Dorothy wanted to return to the safety of her familiar surroundings, I would have preferred to remain in Oz, exploring and making a new life wherever I went. I probably would have gone a little lighter on the rampant witchicide that Dorothy engaged in, though.
I moved around a lot as a child, going to many different schools, staying no more than a few months in any given place. The people in my life flashed past like the glimmer of migrating salmon, and the houses I’ve lived in, of which there are more than 100, have all morphed into one great meta-home. A theory of home, I guess, with walls and floors of all colors and patterns, a memorial labyrinth that held me as I slept, and ate, and thought through life.
As an adult, not much has changed. I still regularly move from one place to another, finding that the upheaval and newness of change is more of a comfort zone for me than the societally-mandated path of mortgage, career, and security. I’m not sure that I will ever be satisfied with being in one place for any extended period, when there is so much of the world to be experienced.
The concept of home is one that has been deconstructed, analyzed, and romanticized for thousands of years. Cicero, for example, said, “Nullus est locus domestica sede jucundior,” which essentially translates to, “There is no place more delightful than one's own fireside.” The thing about home, though, is that our concept of it is as unique as we are, and is as fluid and malleable as the T-1000 in Terminator 2.
Home changes all the time, and not just when you’re moving house. I’m Australian, so Australia is my home, but I live in New York City, which is also my home. My family is my home, but I can also be home when I am alone. Depending on the distance from which you view it, my home could be my house, my city, my country, even my planet. It could be where I choose to be, or where my situation in life has taken me. It could be static or ever-moving. It could be physical or emotional. It could be somewhere I love, or somewhere I hate. It could be all of these things at exactly the same time. And this is just my home! Think about this being the case for every single person on the planet, and you see just how diverse the concept of home can be.
Along with Cicero, some of our great creative thinkers have weighed in on what home can be. They don’t all agree, but that’s to be expected when the concept of home is, ironically, so transient. Considering the amount of discussion there has been over the centuries, and the emotional intensity that is attached to the concept, Charles Dickens probably expresses the importance of home best when he says, “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
Matsuo Bashō, Edo Japan’s most famous poet and the master of haiku form, took the spiritual view that life is home. He said, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Taken literally, it also sounds like he enjoyed road trips, and he probably would have owned an RV if they’d been around in the 1600s. For Bashō, home was not a place, but an experience, and this view is shared by many.
For those of us who choose to eschew the traditional concept of a house being a home, taking to the road can spur a striking metamorphosis in our views. When the scenery at your bedroom window can change every day, connections to location can become much less important. Warsan Shire, the Kenyan-born Somali poet, who lives in London, and who inspires people around the globe, said, “At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.” The notion of the unknown future being home is, for me, one of the most splendid ideas I’ve ever heard. Author Jhumpa Lahiri offers the idea that, for some, home can only be a future concept, as “those who don't belong to any specific place can't, in fact, return anywhere.”
Alain de Botton, in his book “The Architecture of Happiness”, tends to be more analytical as he deconstructs the idea of home. “What we call a home is merely any place that succeeds in making more consistently available to us the important truths which the wider world ignores, or which our distracted and irresolute selves have trouble holding onto.” On the other hand, Jerry Spinelli, an author from Pennsylvania, literally takes a more pedestrian approach, by saying, “Home is everything you can walk to.” Whether in the physical plain, or as an ideological construct, home gives you the opportunity to create your own place in the world, and your own world in a place.
As a traveler, I am not tied to the notion of home being a fixed location. In fact, home doesn’t need to be a location at all. Pliny the Elder, one of the great Roman philosophers, was credited as being the first to say, “Home is where the heart is.” This sentiment has echoed around the world for almost 2,000 years since. While the phrase itself has become something of a cliché, this sentiment, more than any other, rings true to me. My abiding love for my wife has given us a home, one made of delight, unwavering acceptance, and humor that borders on the ridiculous. It is, by far, the most spectacular home I’ve ever had! Inspirational Ghanaian author Lailah Gifty Akita sums it up perfectly: “If your heart is your home, you can be happy anywhere.”
You were right, Dorothy. There really is no place like home.
This story appears in ROVA Adventure Two, which is on sale in major bookstores and independent retailers around the United States and Canada until September. You can also subscribe to the print mag on our subscription page, and the digital edition here.