Where is “Home”??
Here is my attempt at finally answering that question.
I have always struggled with the question of “Where is Home”, and I know that many of my friends also do. When you have had a chance to live in or even just visit many countries, and were able to build a good life of intimate friendships and enriching experiences in each of them, the question becomes increasingly difficult. Where is “home”?! What makes a place “home”?!
I have randomly asked this question over the course of the years to various people and received different answers:
“Home is the starting point.”
“Home is where we have our family that we come back to.”
“Home is my apartment or house, wherever those are, where all my stuff is.”
“Home is the country of which we are citizens by birth.”
“Home is the country where we choose to live and whose citizenship we adopt.”
“Home is where my parents live, no matter where they move.”
“Home is in the arms of my lover.”
All of these are valid, but none seem conclusive. For people on the move, who feel at home in various places, none seem quite right. One is tempted to embrace this quote as an answer:
“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” (Tad Williams).
And while to a large extent this is true, it does leave a feeling of emptiness and an eternal sense of longing for an actual place to call home.
I have argued in a previous post, and will continue to research and think about, that the idea of “Countries” or “The State” is an outdated concept that lingers only because a viable alternative has still not materialised. It will go away sooner or later, and this artificial indoctrination we are filled with from childhood to love country, flag, national anthem, army, and other symbols of the State is for me just another way, similar to religion, for those in power to build the allegiance of the masses based on fake divides. Humanity in terms of needs and wants, lifestyles, and concerns has already outgrown the concept of political countries. As much as I enjoyed living in the US, France, or Egypt, and built very rich lives there and made amazing friends, and of course as much as I love Lebanon as a concept, I have zero allegiance to the United States, France, or Egypt as countries, and for sure I have zero allegiance to the Lebanese State, which I absolutely despise for having done nothing to build on the potential of the geography it occupies or the people it rules…Therefore, in the search for what constitutes “home” for me, I can safely eliminate anything that has to do with nationality or country in the political sense.
But the paradox is, I love Lebanon, and I am coming to terms slowly with the idea of calling it home. Well let me rephrase, I like parts of Lebanon, and those parts I feel are home. And just to reiterate, this has nothing to do with the Lebanese State, but with the energy of the place.
I have been enjoying a very nice summer so far in Lebanon…music festivals and beautiful beach days with good friends and long drives and weekends in the mountains…it’s taking me all over the country in different contexts. And I am increasingly aware of when a certain combination of things makes me feel perfectly in sync, happy, at peace, “Home”! It might be hard to convey in words, but there is a certain mix that involves the Lebanese mountains in particular, some Lebanese music that brings certain poetic images to life, and a small group of good friends that together create a certain energetic resonance that feels like the resonance of Home!
This energetic resonance that creates this feeling of Home is different from the pleasure and excitement that I feel when I’m in other places in the world that I love…the adrenaline rush of being in New York; the creative energy one feels in London; the nostalgia of being in Paris; the soothing serenity that I loved about being in the Himalayas in Nepal; or even the chaotic energy of Beirut itself that I sometimes really like.
Those are all great, but somehow do not reach this feeling of being personally energetically in sync with everything as when I am in certain areas of the Lebanese mountains, mixed with the other ingredients of poetic music and sense of personal history and with the right people. That combination that creates this sort of connection at an energy level is home!
Everyone must find his or her own combo. But once you find it, it becomes your anchor that you want to settle in, like the place where your elastic band is tied in one end. The other end stretches and goes all over the world, explores, learns, enjoys, but eventually is pulled back into that place where you are perfectly in energetic sync!
I would love to know about your combo or your thoughts on what your home is. Please share.
Indeed, a very difficult concept to define, and I guess it is so personal that you will find a different answer with every person you would ask, depending on their actual experience, feelings, life events etc. But I know, from talking to various Lebanese people, that they struggle in defining where home is. Most of them, those who have lived abroad, even for many many years, especially the first generation, feel that their stay abroad is temporary, as if imposed on them by the situation in Lebanon and the region. They long to be back, feel that they are home as soon as they set foot on our beautiful land, only to feel somehow cheated by the “other side of the coin”, the daily grind that makes life rather difficult here. So they actually never find home anywhere…
Yes that’s the experience many expats have, maybe more accentuated in the Lebanese context because of the failure of the Lebanese State. It is also more difficult when you feel quite well in various countries and contexts. That’s why eventually I reached the conclusion that “home” as a concept or feeling has to be stripped of any association to official political country (which I don’t like anyways as I have tried to say in some posts before) and just focus on a certain geographical location (i.e. part of a country) that you feel in sync with, and then if you can also add to it a small group of people with whom u share certain values and affinity, and can create some emotional memories or experiences there, it becomes home. I know it is a bit theoretical but in reality maybe not so much. Of course, that’s exactly what I think the Punctured Container should be like :)))
Love this Ziad. It’s the struggle of my life. When I was in Boston, I knew home was Lebanon, where all my childhood is packed in one place. But when I moved to Portland, I realized that I am emotionally connected to Boston, so very much. And I can’t answer people’s question by saying home is Lebanon and ignoring my 18 years in Boston where I made all of my adult life decisions and Where my 2 kids are born. Home is certainly not where my house and belongings are, it’s not a country or a nationality. Home is an emotional connection more so than anything else.
Having said all of that, I am still in search for an answer
I know we have discussed this a few times before and I know that we continue to struggle with it, especially people who have lived in multiple locations and had strong meaningful experiences in each of them. I completely agree that is not about the house or county and nationality and that its about the emotional connection. But even then, its not that easy. I have a strong emotional connection to Lebanon (the place, not the State) as well as for example to Paris which is connected to my childhood and of course to Boston which remains a very special place for me especially because of the people I got to know there..so there’s an emotional connection to all these places, and they all feel a part to me. This led me to think that the essential home must be something even more than that, and I concluded (at least for now ) that it is a place with which you are energetically in sync- a place where you stand and look at the view, and you are moved from the inside because of what you feel, and then you look around and you see a few really good people you want to hang out with, and there is this complete sense of peace. I am not sure it is even sustainable- it probably changes over time, but I am now going to start with the assumption that if you find such a place, it is worth the effort to try and build a life there, even if you have to focus on just those aspects that resonate with you. You would still enjoy everything else but then that place becomes home.
But don’t take my word for it, I might very well change my mind again in a year and decide that I am a global citizen still after all
Miss you and our long good talks!