Home is where ...
Regard Protestant from Marie Ørgaard
What is a home? What does it mean to feel at home? At the end of a Nordic Christmas story for smaller kids, the main character comes to the conclusion that home is not so much the house she lives in, but rather the people with whom she lives: her sister, mother, father and grandfather. It is not important where she is, as long as she lives together with the people she loves.
A famous Danish couple who has travelled around the world in a Citroën 2CV together with their children has told that they followed the same pattern every time they camped, no matter where it was. The children felt at home wherever they were.
Here is the teddy, here is the lamp, here are the clothes. Every time the same. Home.
Maybe the idea is not that uncommon if you have travelled a lot. My home is where I do this and that. Home can be many places.
On the other hand, there are people who feel very attached to a specific place in the world. A house, a region of which they cannot let go. Here I belong. Here I have my roots. Here and nowhere else.
The late Swedish writer Ingmar Bergman felt very much that way. The moment he sat foot on the island Färø he felt he belonged there. He considered this home to such an extent that he ended up buying almost the entire island and organised himself with a cinema and a swimming pool where he could do his daily swim.
He could then live there in complete, fascinating regularity without any detours. His furniture still stands the way he left it when he died, and the entire place is furnished as a Bergman center. As a monument to a man who preferred inner journeys. A man who preferred to be on his island. The wives might change, his nine children could come and go, but Ingmar felt uncomfortable every other place than right there in that house on the beach by the sea.
The boy Jesus at the temple
At the age of 12, Jesus finds his home – and it is not where his mother is. He does not feel at home with his family. He feels at home in the temple, in the sanctuary, in the church. Where God is. Many of us may feel that way about a church. Here you can feel at home all over the world. Here you can go inside and feel the atmosphere from Manhattan to Berlin.
The decor is more or less the same. With the chairs in a row, sitting as if we were on a giant ship, and during service we set sails towards the altar where God is. We are on a journey together, the same journey towards the world and life.
In Danish churches, it is custom that a ship hangs from the ceiling. The ship symbolises a journey of life, and we are together on this journey. We are a part of a community and a part of something bigger than ourselves. We are in the hands of God.
Nowadays many people are travelling, moving around, changing jobs and perhaps today it is more uncommon to have a specific place where you feel at home. Does this mean that modern people are driven by rootlessness more than before? Some might say so. Maybe they are right. Maybe we lack contemplation, maybe we cannot find peace. Maybe we have created a society which generally suffers from ADHD and restlessness.
The young generation does their homework while at the same time listening to music and keeping an eye open for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Ingmar Bergman run away screaming if he were to be a part of it. They might feel at home with their families, but they live their lives in another kind of network. A network where everybody is talking at the same time and where pictures are being shared constantly. Now I am waiting for the bus. Now I am opening this closet to find my trousers. Now I am going to eat this sandwich. The rest of us may find it difficult to understand why it is interesting.
Thinkers in the modern age who like to talk about contemplation and great thoughts mostly use fancy punchlines and are surprisingly good at having an opinion on almost every aspect of life. The subjects can range from refugees to revenge without any preparation. Are we too fast sometimes? Do we have too much around us? Are we never at peace, at home, where we belong?
Maybe not. Maybe we live in a superficial and shallow time. Or maybe home has changed? When we find that the young generation lacks presence and steadiness, they might be present somewhere else, apart from the physical contact with their friends in a SoMe-network where the rest of us do not spend that many hours after all. They say like Jesus in the temple: „Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I had to be in ,Cyperspace‘ where my friends are?“ Maybe we are too fast to judge these new forms of communities and the possibilities that lie within? Maybe we are at unease – just like Mary – by the fact that our children choose a way that is different from the one we know?
Where is home? Where do we feel at home? Together with the ones we love?
Indeed. When we are part of a community? Indeed. When our lives are as good as it can be, and we prosper as much as we can. Then we feel at home in our lives when we commit to them.
The author is Pastor of the Danish Church in Luxembourg.