The Howling Infinite
Ulysses’ heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to himself, “Alas, Zeus has let me see land after swimming so far that I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot climb out for want of foothold.”
– The Odyssey, Book V, trans. by Samuel Butler
…as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God–so better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!
– from Chapter 23 – “The Lee Shore”, Moby Dick, Melville
Home is the hunted, home from the hills…and it’s raining–of course.
Far be it from me to compare myself to Ulysses [very far indeed, you pretentious fucking twerp-Ed.] For one thing, Poseidon has always been remarkably co-operative, what with sending me fish to catch and not drowning me in his wine-dark sea. But I, like Ulysses, have ‘…travelled far and wide… and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted;’ However, unlike that canny wanderer, I don’t have an Ithica.
That’s to say, I don’t have a place that I feel a deep and permanent connection to; a place above all others that I yearn to return to. I’m one of those not-at-all-unusual late 20th century people who are essentially rootless; or to be more precise, someone with a foot firmly planted in two very different cultures, neither of which I feel completely at home in.
In a way, I think it’s rather liberating. The concept of ‘patriotism’, of fealty to some geographical location or political entity strikes me as not merely absurd but completely baffling. Loyalty to family, to friends, to a cause, an idea, even to a dream–these I can understand. Loyalty to a place simply because I was born there or my family’s roots are there–this strikes me as beyond stupid: it’s bizarre.
But returning ‘home’ has got me thinking about what exactly constitutes ‘home’. The old saying has it that ‘home is where the heart is’; the Catalans have maintained, these many centuries past, that ‘home is where the hearth (llar de foc) is’.
Home, for me, is where my wife and children, my cat and dog, my books and music and assorted, accumulated knick-knackery are…I think.
What does ‘home’ mean to you? Is it an actual physical place? Or is it, as in my case, more a particular set of circumstances, the presence of those people and things which mean most to you?
Give us a poem on ‘home’, whatever it means (or doesn’t mean) to you.