Returning from vacation, I drive down the same roads, knowing the exact location of sharp turns and potholes. I know when to accelerate and how to brake around the last turn. I pull into the garage and unload. When I open the door to the house, it creaks recognizably. The familiar smell arouses my senses.
I understand this place. I walk the darkened hallways at night, knowing the number of stairs to the top and the location of the end table. I knocked my knee into it far too often. I need no light. I am home.
Beyond these tangibles, home carries the familiarity of people and identity: the sound of Dad grinding coffee beans in the early morning, unmandated gatherings in the living room, or a host of other memories. At home we rest our bodies and souls. We find solace in the familiar, unchanging nature.
What is home? A place? People? Friends? Family? Identity? Yes. But it is also something more, something that eludes description.
Wikipedia offers the paltry definition of a dwelling place. It then provides the picture of a house. But a house fails to fully describe a home. Wikipedia knows this, and as a result attempts to supplement the incomplete with “popular sayings” about the concept: “Home is where the heart is.” “There’s no place like home.” “Home sweet home.”
We return to the initial question: What is home? And why do we so desperately want to go there?
In “The Odyssey,” Homer weaves the tale of Odysseus, a brave soldier returning to his homeland, Ithaca, after the ten-year Trojan War. On his journey he encounters enemies, mortal and immortal, that attempt to prevent his homecoming. Calypso, a seductive goddess, traps Odysseus on her island indefinitely with endless passion and paradise. Yet every day Odysseus, the weathered fighter, cries wrenching tears. Even in bliss he just wants to go home. Palm trees and lusty nights fail to fulfill that unfulfilled longing.
Calypso questions him. Is his wife superior to her in stature or beauty?
“No.” He assures her. “You, Calypso, are superior in every way.”
She questions his reasonings again. All Odysseus can offer is that he wants to go home because he wants to go home.
I want to go home because I miss home. And I know that this world is not it.
Is it possible to miss somewhere I have never been? Does my longing indicate an existence even if I cannot fully explain it? Must I look past the tangible elements that attempt to distract in order to see the intangible promise of home?
What is home?
Why do you want to get there?
What distractions prevent you from wanting more?
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