If you had a few weeks to live, where would you go? Roger Cohen asks this question in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times called “In Search of Home.” He talks about the “landscape of childhood” that place of “unfiltered experience, of things felt rather than thought through, of the world in its beauty absorbed before it is understood, of patterns and sounds that lodge themselves in some indelible place in the psyche and call out across the years.”(op-ed April 3,20014 NYTimes)
While the question is hypothetical, Cohen surmises that it is a good question. A way to get beyond all that fills our lives, drilling down to what is truly important.
In the piece he describes what another writer, James Wood, calls “contemporary homelessness.” He says it is perhaps the issue of our time, the state of our world of constant movement, where the immigrant, the refugee, the expat, the third culture kid, the military kid, the military family, the diplomat, the person who moves coast to coast and back again in the same country all live in a place where home is hard to define, harder to feel.
The opinion piece resonated deeply in my soul. Here is a writer who gets it – who understands this dilemma for so many in the modern world. He goes further to say that if you begin to dig deeper into the depression that many experience, so much of it is about not fitting in, not belonging. Again with a gift of words he calls it “displacement anguish.” The essay is similar to what Rachel Pieh Jones expresses in her piece “Saudade – a Song for the Modern Soul.” Rachel quotes from another essay on longing and belonging “I, like many of this era, am a nomad rich with diverse experiences, yet will never be able to collect all of my place and people-specific memories together in one place, in one time.”
Toward the end of the piece, Cohen’s short description of where he would go should he have a few weeks to live had me sitting by a rock pool in an ocean, warm with the sun of Cape Town on my back. He described this place and says there he felt a “Happiness whose other name is home.”
So I ask two questions – where would you go if you had a couple of weeks to live and what do you remember about that place? What beckons you to come and leave the clutter of your life, drilling down to what is truly important?
What is that happiness whose other name is home? Is it the pine trees blowing through Himalayan mountains and the smoke of wood fires at dusk? Is it the dogs barking in the distance and walking on a dusty street when the sound of the call to prayer comes loud across the city? Is it the sound of a lake and voices of children, alive with the joy of innocence? Is it a porch swing, your legs curled up under you, a book in your hand on a lazy summer day? Is it the smell of frying fish as you come back home from a fishing excursion with your grandfather? Is it the lapping of waves on a sandy beach, sand pipers tiptoeing across the sand leaving their distinct marks? Is it a crowded bazaar, where distinct smells and sounds make you feel alive with all the possibilities?
Or is that happiness whose other name is home spiritual? Is is something that can’t be captured in a place?
What is that happiness whose other name is home?
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle