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Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Psychology ... Society ... Spirituality ...

I recently finished reading Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward”. I’m not exactly within the Roman Catholic fold these days, not even at heart. I still see Jesus in a different way than even the most liberal Catholics try to see him. But nonetheless, having grown up in the Roman tradition and recognizing that is has been a force for much good in the world despite all the bad that it is also responsible for, I still feel some affinity to “groovy Catholic writers” like Rohr. His book tries to cheer up those of us who know that we are “over the hill” and are approaching the final phases of our life here on earth. He tries to say that if we can let go of the things that obsessed us in the early days of youth and young adulthood, and learn about the deeper things, our final years might be the best of all, despite all the decay and inevitable discouragement as we see our bodies fall apart.

But to be honest, much of what Rohr writes doesn’t stick with me. It’s sort of like cotton candy writing. Still, here and there Rohr makes a point that hits home with me. One of those points was about the idea of what “home” means to us. Turns out that “home” means a lot more than the particular place where we usually take shelter for the night. Home is a much bigger idea, and it has inspired various social bromides such as “a house is not a home” and “home is where the heart is”.

So Rohr includes a chapter on home and homesickness in Falling Upward. He claims that the “home idea” is a Jungian archetype, or pretty close. There are many cultural factors involved in what we mean when we say “home”. For example, in a modern culture, the Home archetype might present itself as a house or apartment; in another type of culture, the Home archetype might present itself as a tipi, tent, cave, or another type of housing. While the collective unconscious is shared by all of humanity, groups of people create their own “group unconscious”; in any sub-culture such as a family, ethnic group, religion, or corporation, there are shared myths, symbols, legends, heroes, and other indications of the presence of archetypes which are being expressed in a manner which is unique to that group. “Home” is one of those things.

Rohr makes the point, quite accurately, that “home” is bigger even than those cultural interpretations; this is an all-humankind matter, or even a trans-humankind thing. A hint can be gleaned from an old story, as follows:

A great caravan arrived at a certain place where they found no habitation and no water.There was a deep well, but no bucket and no rope. To test for fresh water, they tried a kettle to a rope of their own and let it down. It struck something, and they pulled, but the kettle broke away. They sent down another and lost it too. After that they lowered thirty volunteers from the caravan, but they also disappeared.

There was a wise man there. he said, “I wil go down.” He was nearly to the bottom when a terrible dark creature appeared. “I can never escape from you,” said the man to the monster, “but I hope at least to stay aware, so I can see what’s happening to me.”

“Don’t tell me long stories! You’re my prisoner. You’ll never leave unless you answer one question.”

“Ask it.”

“Where is the best place?”

The wise man reflected, “I am totally helpless here. If I say Baghdad or some other beautiful place, it may be that I will insult his hometown by not mentioning it.” So he replied, “The best place for someone to live is where he feels at home. If that’s a hole in the middle of the earth, then that’s it.”

“Well said. You are a rare human being. Because of your blessing, I’ll set the others free in youre care and give you authority over the world. I’ll take no more prisoners, and I’ll release the waters of this well.”

Rohr, Catholic spiritualist that he is, says that home not only points to the past, but to the future. Regarding the “home in the past”, Rohr makes the point – an important point – that even people who never had a good “home” in their earliest years (due to family dysfunction, substance abuse by parents, materialist parents, overly judgmental and demanding parents, etc.) still seem to imagine and long for a home somewhere in a past that never was. This says – maybe – that reality itself primes our minds to expect a “home”, somewhere, somehow. And if God is the author of reality (a BIG IF), then perhaps God might be calling us to a “true home” somewhere down the line.

Well, wouldn’t that be nice. But for now, we have to put up with all the static and confusion of daily life. Nonetheless, the concept of “home” is a strong one, almost as strong as love and sex. There are scads of songs, both classic and pop, about love and sex. But come to think of it, there are a fair amount of songs involving “home”. So here’s a partial list to ponder:

Home on the Range

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again

Massachusettes – BG’s

Been to Caanan – Carole King

Almost Home – Howard Markman

Goin Home – Rolling Stones

My Father’s House — Bruce Springsteen

Mama, I’m Coming Home –Ozzy Osbourne

When I Get Home – Beatles (maybe also “Hard Days Night”)

Closer to Home – Grand Funk Railroad

The Letter — The Box Tops

Carolina In My Mind – James Taylor

Who Says You Can’t Go Home — Bon Jovi

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynard Skinnard

Take Me Home – Phil Collins

My Old Kentucky Home — Johnny Cash

And then there are all the Christmas songs about “home” – just a small sample:

Please Come Home for Christmas – Aaron Neville

I’ll Be Home For Christmas — Bing

Baby Please Come Home – Bono

One last thought – in my life, I never think about “home” when I’m in my apartment. But for every working day, right around 4:30 or so, the idea of home becomes clear and present. Home is one of those things that comes into clear focus, whenever you ain’t got it.

P.P.S. — Just saw the movie “Jersey Boys”. Notice in the soliloquy scenes at the end that Franky Valli (or the actor playing his part) says that the career of the Four Seasons was “trying to get back home”; somehow trying to re-capture those moments back in Newark long ago (NOT Belleville as the movie inaccurately claims; they lived in the Crane Village housing complex, just south of the Newark-Belleville border) when he and the boys gathered on a corner under a streetlight at night, put their voices together in harmony, and the world fell away from them and it was just the music. A Zen moment, a “home” moment. The kind of thing that we can spend a lifetime trying to re-claim.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:59 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I guess I’m missing something. I don’t think I’ve *ever* tho’t of home as some special place where everything is wonderful. And I should say that my home as a child was a very good one. My parents loved each other. When my dad came home from work, my mother would greet him at the door (old fashioned way of doing things then), my dad would kiss my mother, and the electricity of that kiss would go through the room and we kids would smile as we couldn’t help but look at each other: “Did you feel that too?”

    While my parents loved each other very much and loved us too, still we had a difficult life with serious illnesses and various problems; as I’ve read recently “everybody has something”. We were one of those and “had something” – not dysfunctional but serious and worrisome for those we loved. For that reason I can’t say I really I “enjoyed” home.

    Then I went to school and eventually to work in a different city. Again, although I had a place to live, basically, it was just that – a place to live.

    When I got married, “home” seemed to be where we gathered. Again, while my husband and I loved each other, there were circumstances that kept “home” from being what might be called a “comforting” place. And thus it seems the rest of my life has followed that pattern.

    Perhaps I got used to “home” being a place I happened to live, might not necessarily care to move from, but didn’t consider particularly comforting. I don’t know if I’m one among many or just one, different from all others.

    I find myself wondering about the “home as an archetype” concept. It seems to me (and here I’m not sure who I’m disagreeing with, you, Jung, Rohr, all 3 or two in whatever combination) that for home to be an “archetype it must be much more than simply a “tipi, tent, cave”, etc. Archetype seems to me to involve some sense of how one feels in the place, how one might long for or want to flee from the place.

    I must say that I really *do* like the concept of “group consciousness”. I’ve never really heard of that term before, but it sure sounds right to me. It seems a natural kind of thing that those people who belong to particular groups would share some sort of underlying consciousness, similar to the collective unconscious all humans share, according to Jung.

    I am not sure what Rohr means when he speaks of “home” being even larger than a “trans-humankind thing”.

    I don’t know if it’s just because of my own sense of home must be quite poor or if something else is missing; but as I think of it I can’t quite get a lock on what “home” might be. I think I’m probably on the same page with you in the sense that thinking of heaven as an all-wonderful kind of home is a very foreign concept to me.

    As to all the songs about home (most of which I confess I do not know) perhaps the idea is that basically the writers and singers of these songs are longing for a place where they can be “forever happy” – a kind of sappy concept to my way of thinking. But then again, I likely am wrong about a lot of this.

    As to home coming into clear focus when you’re away and thinking of returning, I say good for you to have that concept. But as for me, I’m not sure I get that either. I have vivid memories often of not really wanting to “go home”; can’t say I’d know where I would go other than “home”. But “going home” seemed like going into another area of difficulties in life. Who was it said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in” (or some version of that idea) is more in the line of how I think of home.

    Wow! I usually don’t find myself thinking like this; but this concept of home surely brought out something. I can’t say it’s a bad feeling; it’s just that I don’t think of home in any particular way – much less any “eternal” or “Falling Upward”, or totally happy way. Frankly, many of the ideas of heaven have me thinking that I’d be bored really quite soon.

    I’ve always tho’t of myself as a realist and that’s the realism of my concept of “home”. Life on this planet is difficult; and thus life, even in a home, is difficult. But I guess that’s what we opt for when we choose to come to this planet for this life. (As you can see, I’m myself am pretty far from the Roman Catholic concept of an eternal home or heaven; yet I refuse to let them tell me I can’t be Roman Catholic as my thinking is that once baptized that’s it; and there’s no going back whether the RCs want to change things or not.) MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 2, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

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