Being a Home and at Home to Self and Others

We have spoken many times of the notion of home, and that it essentially means being at home to ourselves and so able to be at home to others. It is not so much a physical location as a place at the very core of ourselves, regarded as sacred, and where there is a sense of safety, belonging, and outreach.

Some thirty plus years ago, I was able to stay with my mother during her last days. She spoke of wanting to go home. She was in the hospital at the time and I asked her if she wished to be able to conclude her life at her apartment. She said then that she wanted to go home to George, her husband and my father, who had died the previous year. Home for her was more than anything the person with whom she had spent over fifty years of her life.

It has struck me since that time that our home is with those that we love and who love us. Our home is in the heart or core of our own self and of those who have entered our heart or whose heart we have entered.

Miriam Therese Winter, musician and theologian, has an article I have quoted before, called “Music the Way Home.” She says that home is not just a place outside us, but is a metaphor for a place within us. “It means to live from the inside out. To do so is to be at home.” She adds that “wholeness, healing, integration is what the inner journey is all about.” It happens when, instead of a divisive dualism, our inner and outer selves and the world within us and around us are in harmony. For her, it happens, however fleetingly, through music, which shares our journey into ultimate meaning. “When we embrace music as a healing presence, we are already home.”

Her words echo those of Eva Rockett, who has written that the beauty of music can reach behind all our defences and touch the core of the condensed self. What they seem to be saying that our home place is our inmost core or centre, the place that no wound can touch, the sacred self, of which we have consistently written. Music, meditation, friendship with its intimate and open conversation, and any expression that reaches to our core or allows us to get in touch with our core, brings us home.

This sense of home is echoes as well in the spiritual, Going Home, whose melody is inserted into Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The spiritual speaks of a place beyond fear, with family and friends, and adds that “it’s not far, just close by, through an open door.” Besides suggesting a physical place beyond cruel enslavement, it suggests a place within. The door is to our inmost soul, where Meister Eckhart and Howard Thurman tell us that no wound could ever reach. This vision is also expressed in another spiritual, I’m Trying to Make Heaven My Home, and in the African American folk tale, The People Could Fly.

A similar perspective is found in the writings of Joseph Campbell in his portrayal of the hero. The journey of the hero consists in leaving home, struggle and victory, and return with a gift. For Campbell, this journey is one of inner rather than outer geography. It involves leaving one’s present level of growth and development, a struggle especially with our fears and hostilities, and arriving at a new level of understanding and daring.. It is a quest essentially to become a whole person who lives from his or her inmost core. The gift is the gift of our self , our inmost self and our whole self. It is the gift of our presence, our wisdom, and our compassion.

Many years ago, I jotted down a definition of the hero or heroine. “The hero is the person who ventures beyond his or her present stage of growth and development to a new and purified level of thought, feeling, and activity, by struggling with their fears and hostilities; so as to discover and live from their true and inmost self, and to share this wisdom and compassion with others.” In briefer words, we might say that the hero or heroine is the person who comes to be at home within themselves and are then able to be a home for others, a safe place as well as a place of challenge, a place of belonging and of outreach.

The story of Hansel and Gretel gives two examples of homelessness and a final example of at-homeness. At first the children are cast out and deserted. They are then are shut in and threatened with being swallowed up. They are first locked out and then locked in. These are images of rejection and of smothering. Both situations are forms of homelessness, of not belonging. Home, in contrast is a place where one can come to, be in, and leave from, without being locked in or locked out, rejected or devoured. It is a place of safety, belonging and outreach.

In the story, the children, wander for a time through a dark forest and a period of lostness, punctuated briefly by the beauty of a bird’s singing that reaches deeper than all their sorrows. Then they find an abundance of treasures in the house of the witch. In effect, they are realizing their own inner worth and gifts that are deeper than any fear or hostility. They can then share these with others.

It seems that many people in our society suffer from homelessness, a far greater number than those who lack a physical home. It is very easy in our present world to be caught up in externals, to be captured by fear and its expression in hostility. To that extent we are homeless, away from our real home, our inner sacred core, and limited as a result in our response to one another. Bring Him Home is a beautiful song from Les Misérables. Beyond survival and safety, it suggest a fulness of life informed by love.

May you grow to be more and more at home to yourself, comfortable with who you are, recognizing your sacredness, honouring and developing your gifts, and sharing yourself and your gifts with those closest to you and the wider world as well.

Norman King, March 6, 2022
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