Home. Except for love, perhaps no word in the English language conjures more evocative imagery. We crave the cozy, nurturing, roaring-fire scene depicted so effectively on film. Home houses our identity. It’s less about the four walls than what they represent: “the abode of one’s affections, peace or rest,” according to Merriam-Webster. At some point in our lives, many women (and men, too, if they will admit it) harbor a fearful fantasy of becoming a “bag lady/guy,” carting our belongings out on the street. We see the homeless and quake — “there but for the grace of God go I.”
What we’re seeking is a sense of security inside ourselves, a home within that can never be taken away. As national boundaries dissolve and corporations invite poets and spiritual mentors into their boardrooms, the hunger for this broader definition of home has never been greater.
From Me to We
Creating this inner sanctuary will entail a quantum shift for many of us: out of the competitive, “What’s in it for me” worldview into a more collaborative, compassionate perspective in which the operative question becomes, “How may I serve?”
For instance: as record numbers of us skate towards elderhood, home care has become a hot topic. What does this mean? On one level, “home care” is about providing caregiving in the home to enable our elders and homebound to remain in their comfort zones. But the larger view begs our attention. Before we can care for our home, we need to know it viscerally. We must embody the place of wholeness that wants to be born in us.
Our own bodies and the planetary body are inextricably linked. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson speaks of “the pattern that connects,” the common ground of our unity. We exist in relationship to everyone and everything else on Earth. What kind of home care is our aging Mother receiving? Maybe that’s the real key to conscious aging: caring for the personal and the planetary with equal reverence.
Living in Tune with Nature
In other societies, the old ones are the keepers of wisdom. So-called developing cultures that honor their tribal elders also honor the land in which they live. “Home care” is a unified practice for them, as indigenous as the planting and the reaping, as natural as celebrating life’s quotidian rhythms with ritual.
In this visionary view, we’re all caregivers — Earth stewards, some say. Home care for our elders is rooted in how we create home in our daily lives. What kind of home do we want to cultivate and care for, inside ourselves, interpersonally, and as part of the collective “home body” we inhabit?
Try this: for the next week, take a time-out from worrying about the economy, your teenager’s pierced body parts and the latest virus scare to live into the larger questions about the quality of life you’re choosing in every moment, by the way you live, by what you do and don’t honor. Does your definition of home serve you? Is it inclusive or exclusive? Will your practice of home care help create a sustainable future for us all?
Within a decade, for the first time in human history, the number of people in the world aged 65 and older will exceed that of children under five. If you’re not already among this exhalted majority, one day you will look in the mirror and see your grandmother’s or grandfather’s eyes. Will they reflect the wisdom of generativity, of the home that you carry with you always, as a turtle does, caring for it because it is an intrinsic part of you?
Native Americans call this planet Turtle Island. I imagine this is what they mean.
© Copyright 1999-2016 Amara Rose
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