"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Divine Homesickness:
If Only In My Dreams



"When we are constantly focused on externals,
we are not centered, that is, we are not aligned
internally -- body, mind and soul.
Without that alignment,
we have a case of Divine Homesickness.
We feel empty and lost, always trying
to find our way Home . . . always
looking for something 'out there' to fill us up.
And nothing out there can."

The Little Book of Peace of Mind
by Susan Jeffers

Similarly, Anne Lamott writes that "all of the interesting characters I've ever worked with -- including myself -- have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness" (Bird By Bird, 200). From Jeffers, Lamott, and the following two passages, by Buechner and Rushdie, we can construct a poetics of divine homesickness, one that resonates strongly with me because I am from Missouri, I am from Kansas, not just metaphorically but actually.

The Child In Us
We weren't born yesterday. We are from Missouri. But we are also from somewhere else. We are from Oz, from Looking-Glass Land, from Narnia, and from Middle Earth. If with part of ourselves we are men and women of the world and share the sad unbeliefs of the world, with a deeper part still, the part where our best dreams come from, it is as if we were indeed born yesterday, or almost yesterday, because we are also all of us children still.

No matter how forgotten and neglected, there is a child in all of us who is not just willing to believe in the possibility that maybe fairy tales are true after all but who is to some degree in touch with that truth. You pull the shade on the snow falling, white on white, and the child comes to life for a moment. There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody's voice in the hall, that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears.

Who can say when or how it will be that something easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die? The child in us lives in a world where nothing is too familiar or unpromising to open up into a world where a path unwinds before our feet into a deep wood, and when that happens, neither the world we live in nor the world that lives in us can ever entirely be home again, any more than it was home for Dorothy in the end either, because in the Oz books that follow The Wizard she keeps coming back again and again to Oz because Oz, not Kansas, is where her heart is, and the wizard turns out to be not a humbug, but the greatest of all wizards after all.

from Listening to Your Life,"The Child in Us * May 6"
by Frederick Buechner

Buechner analyzes the myth of Oz more thoroughly in Chapter 4 of his book, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. Likewise, author, Salman Rushdie employs the Oz metaphor when describing the impossibility of a backward quest for childhood innocence.

Out of Kansas
"So Oz finally became home; the imagined world became the actual world, as it does for us all, because the truth is that once we have left our childhood places and started out to make up our lives, armed only with what we have and are, we understand that the real secret of the ruby slippers is not that 'there's no place like home', but rather that there is no longer any such place as home: except, of course, for the home we make, or the homes that are made for us, in Oz: which is anywhere, and everywhere, except the place from which we began" (see more).
from Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002,
Essay #1: "Out of Kansas"
by Salman Rushdie

I still love to hear Karen Carpenter sing "I'll Be Home For Christmas, If Only In My Dreams," but I feel differently about this song than I used to. I used to think it was about people who weren't able to travel "home for the holidays" to be with everyone else. Now I'm more inclined to think it's about people who have to travel or have traveled, when all they really want is the privacy of their own home. There they are surrounded by all their loved ones, but what they crave is to be home alone -- if only in their dreams.

Not to be all bah - humbug about it, but now whenever I hear lyrics like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" or "There's No Christmas Like Home Christmas," my response is Precisely! Home. H - O - M - E. Not someone else's home. Not someplace that used to be home. Your own home. Where your heart is. As John Denver sings:

"Home is where the heart is,
and Christmas lives there too."
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, 14 January 2012

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Outside Looking In


  1. Dear Kite. Such a good column. I just finished a book about the life of Dipa Ma today and she says that we can only find 'home' in ourselves which is really what you are saying. Photos are fab as usual. (One of) your biggest fan,

  2. Also Hugh Prather & letter to Vickie Sept / Dec 2008.

  3. Peter Bunder: "Staying put isn't rewarded by the culture, but it has it's advantages."

    E.g., Your children can come home for Christmas!