Friday, July 20, 2007

The Concept of Home

Close your eyes. Remove yourself from your worries by seeking to still your mind so that you are alone in the world. Now, breathe slowly and think about home. Not your particular home, but home as a concept. What does it mean?

When I think of home, the concept, it brings about flashes of places. Some I have called home, like the small concrete block we called a house in Puerto Rico when I was a child. My mother made it into a home by her sheer will, since she had little money to care for four children after my father abandoned us.

I think at an apartment in a slum in Stamford, Connecticut. (Yes, Connecticut has slums) I remember the sound of weapons being fired. The screams of people being beaten, and the fear with which people always spoke about the neighborhood. Yet within that neighborhood there was light. There were friends and fierce protectors. They were not always the most savory of people, but they were like the warriors of ancient Mycenae, strong and proud and protective of their own.

I also see what I have created of what little I have in terms of creating a home. It is not much, but when people enter, they seem to relax and find themselves feeling at home themselves, even though if I must be honest i am not the most welcoming of people, too much of a loner really.

Home is also a feeling, a feeling of security that engulfs you and makes you feel safe in a world. Something like what one imagines the womb must feel like to an infant ready for birth. This feeling is almost maternal, and yet Hestia is never presented as a mother.

As I close my eyes I imagine myself home, and the image changes from tropical island to New England winters to Ohio's corn fields and somewhat ornery and a little uncivilized people (Close the gates, the barbarians here.) And yet Hestia, that sacred center, that sacred fire at the center of the feeling that is home, a feeling we all know but which is hard to put into words, is constant, eternal, a pillar of strength in the hearts of mankind.

I will make a confession, on my way home yesterday I stopped by a local UDF (United Dairy Farmers) store and bought some OJ, milk, and a couple of muffins to have for breakfast during my weekend. I do not have much money, and as I left the store I was approached by a homeless man begging for money. I had to take into account what I had and what I might be able to spare, and I decided I could not give him anything.

As I sit here writing this, I am reminded that I could have given him something, even if just the 85 cents in my pocket, because unlike me, he has nowhere to call home. I am reminded too of the more Athenian or Aresian ways of thought that tend to dominate my thought processes, that if he just spent as much time working as he does begging, and stopped drinking, he could afford a small place here in Dayton, a place that is not all that expensive to live in.

As I sit here writing this I am forced to confront the conflicts in my own mind that I must learn to reconcile. The decision not to give him something because my own need outweighed his to me was logical, but perhaps it should have come from a deeper more emotional place, that place that pities someone who cannot get it together enough to get himself a small piece of what we all want and need, a home to call his own.

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