An Approximate Home

homes-night-pasture-farm-post-beam-home2There is nothing new in saying the world is not our home. Our existential discomfort here never leaves us. If we are sensitive, we can feel it when we wake. We sense it in our beds at night. Often even our dreams tell us we were meant for more.

We yearn for a different world, one that’s not so hard. We look for a world where relationships flourish naturally, where the objects of our desire are ours without the demand of quite so much labor.

Instead, we find the world a place of turmoil and rancor. Peace is a rare commodity. Relationships crash. Loneliness and despair are closer companions for many of us than our own families.

In all this we long for a real home. We long to see it manifested in both this world and in whatever world our longings point us toward. But, we know too that there is no home, no final place where we belong in this world.

And yet. There’s hope. While efforts to find or to make a home that satisfies all our longings in this world are futile, we can seek to come close. The function of our longings is to guide us toward that end. By listening to them, we can lay the foundation for something that, while not our full and final home, looks something like what we hope for, an approximate home.

We know what we are looking for: a place marked by peace, stability, intimacy and pleasure. We want a setting in which relationships can reach their most fulfilling iteration. We want meaning and leisure and work that satisfies.

All people, however disparate their behavior, however counterproductive their choices seem, are seeking to establish this kind of approximate home for themselves. But, as should be obvious, some strategies are more effective than others.

What strategies pay off? The traditional ones. To establish an approximate home means harkening back to the old virtues: loyalty, cheer, patience, temperance, moderation, thrift and so on. These qualities, as quaint as they seem, are not out-of-fashion habits of mind and will. They are tools for building the best future any of us can hope for.

But, they aren’t quite enough. Building an approximate home requires more than individual effort. It requires social support, a community, a group of like-minded compatriots. Approximate homes come in bunches or, more accurately, neighborhoods. Life in our approximate homes means life together with others.

Contemporary society is faltering because its values are in conflict with those required to build the approximate homes we all long for. Instead, we are beset by trivial amusements, unlimited personal freedom, endless meaningless choice.

And so, being committed to building a home in this world that mirrors the one we really long for means, to some degree, turning our backs on the society around us. It means discerning what helps us to meet our goals, to nourish the version of home we’re constructing and what destroys it.

The implications of a quest for as much of a home as possible in this world range from the psychological to the cosmic. From now on, this blog will be dedicated to exploring these issues, to delving into the questions that define the quest for a life and a place where we can be, if not fully at home, at least a little closer.

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9 responses

  1. Building home and community is such a difficult, yet lovely, task. When I lived on my own, it was easy to go into the community: church friends, work friends. But that was the extent. It was hard to break through beyond the polite conversation, and often, I was left alone to walk to my car or looped out of dinner plans. It’s the little things. I fault no one, because honestly, people rarely think about the lone person with no connections. I’m an introvert, but I need meaningful relationships too.

    Now that I’ve moved home, my mental health is through the roof. I’ve received some flack for boomeranging, but in the end, wouldn’t we all prefer to live where we are loved?

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