Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I recently took a walk through my neighborhood, with my trusty walking stick in hand, just for exercise, and because moving keeps me from being cranky. Anyway... I noticed that everyone was out mowing their lawns, or blowing leaves from the front yard, constantly maintaining the outside of the houses. My main thought was why would anyone want to have something that large to take care of. I'll admit it, I'm lazy. I don't want leaves to rake and grass to mow and ivy to cut off the house side. I've always said that I would be perfectly happy living in a small apartment, or an out of the way fishing shack. I remember driving down 212 on the way to Milledgeville seeing a log cabin type house right next to Lake Sinclair, and I thought that would be the best place to live, out of the way of the world (well, it was next to the highway), and next to a lake. Just give me a broadband line to the Internet and I'd be all set. Or another "house" I remember seeing... I was jumping on the trampoline with a friend of mine in Milledgeville, off in the middle of nowhere, and next to the trampoline was a small trailer/house that couldn't have been more than a bed, a table, a kitchen and bathroom, all in the same room, it seems like. Probably no bigger than my bedroom. I asked Marcus what that was, and he said that someone lived there. I'd be happy there, as little as it was to take care of.
And all these houses, spread out everywhere in my neighborhood, with all that work that goes into it, wouldn't people be just as happy in apartments? Wouldn't Le Corbusier have loved to make the housing for an entire city, leaving the land to be used for leisure, education, preservation, natural living? Or people living in those places underground, with the same intents for the land. I'm not an environmentalist, by any means, but I see the construction of new buildings and houses and Publix shopping centers (that in a later blog) and I get depressed. All that wonderful forest land being toward down just so we can put up another box. It's not worth it. Why don't we let the forests be, and be a world that lives with the world that we have been put on. I mean, Earth is our "Home," for the most universal meaning of the word. It's where we live, and keeping the natural beauty of this planet is very important. I mean, we could take everyone in my neighborhood, put them in a tall building, both above and below ground, give them wonderful apartment spaces for the cost of the houses they currently live in, and return that space to the trees and animals. I mean a huge building, with fireproof protectors since I know that every apartment building in Atlanta seems to catch on fire. And below ground would be the commercial section much like the Metro area in Washington DC, and away from the building would be a school and church, partnered with the outside world. I know I've said these things in other blogs (click on the label for Le Corbusier at the end of this blog).
So what is "home?" Why should the people want to own houses? I know that Locke used (paraphrased) the idea of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness for the evolution from Locke's statement to the Declaration of Independence), and the stacks of people living in shanties in London and in Europe was far different from the wide open spaces that the colonists found when they came here to America. Here, owning a piece of that vast country became everyone's dream. To have a house, to have the freedom and privacy, it was engrained into the very core of living in the United States. And to live in a country where the government couldn't take that freedom or privacy away from its citizens, that's where "home" becomes very important. Democracy allows for the houses to be built, for the dreams to be realized, and without this, the walls won't keep anyone, be it the mobs or tribal kings, the governments or the terrorists, the churches and the kings, from entering and taking at will.
(Look up Winslow Homer's paintings for ones like this at the right. He painted rustic American and Carribean scenes during the late 1800's when urbanization drove people into the cities and away from the small towns, but also at a time when Manifest Destiny drove people west throughout the Plains and into the West. It reminds me of the Oklahoma Land Run in 1889, when settlers sought out land to build their own houses and farms. I participated in a mock land run at my Elementary School in 1987 before I moved to Georgia.)
The American Dream.... for everyone to own a home. Forgive me if I think people took that too literally. We all had to own a home, no matter what it took, or what legislation had to be brought forward for the banks to give everyone a loan to own a home. Obviously, that didn't work. And now there are a bunch of empty houses all over the place while those that were living in them are now stacked up in apartments, if they're lucky, or living in the basements of their parents, or worse. All because they thought that the absolute necessary thing for them to do was to own a house. And I've heard my brother talking about houses he's been in, to answer false alarm calls on security systems, huge houses where all they have are a couch and a TV (flat screen, of course), and a bed in the bedroom because they can afford nothing else, other than the cable and the utilities and the mortgage payment which is ridiculously high. And this is their dream. And people "occupy" the banks in New York City and elsewhere demanding that the banks "give" them homes, which makes no sense, because such things have to be earned and owned. A dream is not an entitlement, not a right, not something to be handed out to every soul on this earth. The people who designed the papers by which we govern this country gave us the right to pursue that dream, not necessarily that we would find it. Property is not the goal to that dream, just part of it, because the true dream is that of freedom. And that is something that a house cannot give you, not by a long shot. In fact, a lot of people will find that owning a house is the very opposite, a jail, a nightmare, not something that gives freedom.
Freedom transforms the inside of the mind, breaks down the walls that keep us locked into ourselves. Owning a house, being able to do whatever you want inside that house, that is truly freedom, I guess. But if doing so causes more trouble than it's worth, is it truly freedom? To me, give me a one room shack someplace and leave me to my own devices, and I'll be free. Give me a corner of this world, and, given a good book and the Internet as my playground, I shall be more at peace with my surroundings than those who live in mansions. And further, give me the freedom to do what I wish in that space, to come and go as necessary, without question or critique, and it will be bliss. For the American Dream, I think, is not the actual property that you own, but the state of mind that you are in when there.
A friend of mine asked me what "Home" is. What was "home" to me. It took me no time at all to answer that home was in my apartment in Milledgeville, for the 6 months I lived there. That was a time when I had total freedom to do whatever I wanted. I worked at the grocery store, drove to the park and took walks around the lake, went to Lake Sinclair and swam, stayed up at night watching TV and made it ice cold in the summer and dry and warm in the winter. I washed my dishes, cleaned my house, did my laundry, all the things I was supposed to do. My apartment was always clean, and I had pride in it. Because it was mine. Not that I owned it, but that I could truly be myself, without any masks or restrictions. "Home" is a state of mind.
I would also say that home is where you are most comfortable. I would say that, for a time, Borders was home, during the time that Jeremiah was our GM (and I know people will disagree with me on that), but I felt as if I could be myself almost completely there, and I was happy working like a well oiled machine. You know that feeling when you watch Star Trek: TNG when everyone is clicking, and you feel that it would be a perfect working environment? That's what I felt like there. There were no parts of the machine that were off, rusting away. That is Home. It's the place you go to where you don't want to be anyplace else, and would be content to be there for all eternity. Home is as close to Heaven on Earth as you can get. But the one thing I learned from all the places I've been, is that Home is a transient state. Home can never stay in one place for very long. After 6 months, I had to move out of my apartment. After 6 months, Jeremiah moved back to Maine and was replaced with the bankruptcy of the company and other managers that didn't work out as well.
Home is, for some people, a place where there are other people. As Billy Joel sang, "Wherever we're together, that's my home." And for others, like me, I'm perfectly at home when I'm alone. Freedom comes in solitude, for there is no society or government to define the rules, only those
that reside in the mind. Self-regulation becomes that which defines walls. My grandmother always says that "Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." In a land of solitude, there is no one to keep you out. Would that I be Thoreau sometime in my life, and live in a cabin where I wouldn't have to see anyone for days, even as my mind wanders about the universe. I will not deny that people need each other, and I certainly do need the people in my life, those at work or here on the Internet, but for true "Home-ness," for true freedom, that is done alone. Or, I guess, with someone that you love. Yes. I think Billy Joel talked about that in his song. Because Love goes with Home in a very personal way. A home is shared by two when they can be together and still be free, when the walls are knocked down between the two. The threshold becomes crossed then, and two homes become one, to mix some cliches.
So that is what Home is. It's Freedom. It's a state of mind. It's being alone and unencumbered by the world. It's finding someone to share that freedom with you, without prejudgements or opinions, and living, beside the fire and in front of the screen, and being content. Yes, home is a place where you can be content, and, as fleeting as that is, hopefully, everyone can find a place they call home, for it will sustain them through all their journeys.