You Can Go Home Again

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I think many of us are on journeys like Marlon’s, even if they don’t lead through prison, and even if we don’t realize we’re on them. The point of the journey isn’t some external goal. It’s to come home to your true self. The purpose of the outward quest is to free you from the false limits society has put on you, your false sense of who you are, so you can see yourself more clearly. But if we get lost in the quest, we will never find our way back.

Not all individuals are lost, but society as a whole certainly seems to be. We are blundering around, tearing up the world because we are stuck in Act 1. We’re fighting monsters and pursuing treasures, when we need to move to Act 2 and come home.

Where is Home?

So what does home mean, and what is the treasure to be found there? I’ve been asking people, and most say something like what Marlon said. Home is where you feel comfortable, safe, known, accepted, and loved.

At the extreme of the journey, a part most of us thankfully never reach, is homelessness. Imagine this discussion from the point of view of someone who is sleeping in a cold alley, threatened by junkies and cops. How could they feel safe, comfortable, loved, or familiar?

Some people do amazing things with making their corner of the street homelike. They hold on to photos or treasures that might seem like junk to others, or they create their own pieces of art. That’s one reason it is so cruel when the police roust them and take their stuff. It’s not that what they had was valuable. It was familiar; it was home. It’s also why anything you can do to make a homeless person feel safe, comfortable, or loved could be lifesaving.

Sometimes home leaves you. American novelist Thomas Wolfe’s most famous book was called You Can’t Go Home Again.  The young protagonist can’t go home for two reasons. He has alienated his people by writing unflatteringly about them in his first book. And even if the people took him back, his town has been changed so much by real estate speculation and pointless growth that he can’t recognize it.

Familiarity is certainly part of home. People say familiar smells, sounds, sights, and people help them feel at home. My son Sekani has lived on the same block in the Mission District his entire life, but he says the Mission has changed so much it no longer feels like home.  Other San Francisco neighborhoods that have gone through less change feel more like home to him, even though he’s never lived there.

Environments are changing so rapidly all over the world that many adults must have feelings like that. The familiar is gone. So home has to mean more than familiar surroundings.

In thinking about home, I notice that home is a lot like love. A place where you are accepted, where you accept others and accept yourself. That means home is inside of you. You just have to find it. Finding it might require a heroic journey: physical, mental or spiritual. But it might just be a question of deciding not to be lost anymore.

The Prodigal Son

One of the oldest journey stories is Jesus’ parable of The Prodigal Son. As you probably remember, this kid had a good life on his father’s farm. But he was bored. The outside world seemed more exciting. He got his father to give him half the farm as an advance inheritance.

He sold his half of the farm and left for the City. He partied for a while, spending too much. When times turned hard, he went broke and wound up living in a pigsty, sharing the pigs’ food to keep from starving.

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12 Responses to You Can Go Home Again

  1. Burt Feuerstein says:

    Good to read and think about this, David. Thank you.

  2. Dick Heiser says:

    Best wishes to Marlon!
    It won’t be easy, but getting angry won’t help. There’s so much unfairness in the world for a person with a record, but stability and patience are the answer.
    I’ll be thinking about you, and wishing you success!

  3. Roger Eaton says:

    The answers to deep questions are never spot on. I like clicking one’s heels as a way to go home – there is a kindly sense of humor behind the notion!

  4. Toni Gilbert says:

    David, Nice story and so true. Toni

  5. Seems to me that the expression about not being able to go home has more to do with the passage of time and the changes which are inevitable making the idea of retreat to a world we remember fondly, and often erroneously, a fantasy we all indulge in when times get tough. It is a longing for simpler, more gentle times seen through the perspective of one’s imagination. Simpler, gentler times for one may have been hell for people such as your friend Marlon. The road back for Marlon will be very difficult, and I wish him all the best on his strenuous journey back to the world that never showed him much mercy or kindness. I know you will be his true friend, David – nice article.

  6. Esther Roberts says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and Marlon’s story as you have David. I hope so much that he can find the kind people waiting out there who were not available when he was younger.

    Your insights into people’s lives and our human experience is always something that moves me deeply. There is a sincerity and laser integrity in your writing that has a way of going straight to my heart. Thank you so much.

  7. Salome Hancock says:

    a thoughtful piece, thank you. Marlon stands for a lot. big quandaries he faced up to and found personal route through to finding himself. finding that assurance that we are alright in the midst of pain and fears and worries is exactly what we all need, want, deserve. we all have that potential, too- no matter what. finding our way toward and into it is our life journey. there is a force outside and inside us — how to tap it is what our lives are about. life opens new, clean, and full of possibility when we can do that. i’m working on it! salome

  8. Lynn says:

    Very nice read, david. Thank you for sharing this writing piece. Love the parables. Your writing resonates with me. It answers questions, and helps me as I am finding home through living sloe to and spending time in nature, through providing service to others.

  9. Anh says:

    David, thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom.

    Your essay reminds each of us to live more mindfully, and to reflect on, “What is Wisdom?”

    I feel grateful, David, to read your essay.

  10. Angelee says:

    I kept the notice of your current blog post in my inbox for days like a special gift to open only when I had the time and quietude to fully savor. It did not disappoint, and is so relevant to the journey I am now on. Wonderful reminders. Thank you for touching my heart yet again.

  11. Sekani says:

    Nice piece, Dad.

    I don’t know if this fits the theme, but I’ve been feeling more at home in The Mission by accepting the changes, honoring my memories of the past, and relaxing in the fact that I’m still a part of the neighborhood.

    If I have to leave, it will be a pain in the neck, but building a new home is possible too.

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