The global pandemic has changed our relationships with the idea of home forever.
My perspective on home absolutely changed. I was reading the excellent Not Boring newsletter the other day about Magnolia, the (relatively silent) home goods giant with their mecca in Waco, TX. They help people showcase and celebrate the importance of home. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been massively successful.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the idea of home (being stuck here 24/7 makes that pretty easy). I used to not care so much about how things looked or the functional use of every day furniture since I didn’t spend every waking moment here.
But now I do. It’s forced me to get a desk to actually do work at, but more importantly, has forced me to think more deeply about home.
What is home and why do we attach so much importance to it? And where is it, really?
One of the most interesting experiences I’ve had recently (in my home) has been using Sam Harris’s Waking Up app and using the “Headless Way” practice. It attempts to teach something fundamental through a series of simple exercises: find your head. Where is it? Are you behind it?
These exercises point at trying to uncover what’s true about you.
Here are some funny thoughts I wrote down about the practice immediately afterwards:
You can see yourself at arm’s length, but at the short end of the arm, where are you? You can feel the sensations and tie that to what you think it looks like, but you cant see it.
Having no head works well when you’re drinking out of a cup. You look into the cup and see water moving towards where your head should be, but where does it go? It kind of just disappears….
One of the other main teachings is this: your true “self” and what you are (post for a different day) is your home.
It’s always with you. And if you’re disconnected from it you feel….like something’s off. Kind of like how you feel if you’re traveling and away from home for an extended period of time.
What’s this “home” that you long for after being away? In the physical sense, it might be a comfortable, familiar space. You know, your actual home. If you go a level deeper, perhaps it’s your neighborhood and friends and family that you associate with home. It’s the place that you can be your true “self” around others you love. It’s the place your personality can manifest itself into a physical space. Especially being at home all the time I’ve enjoyed finding the building blocks that others use to create their physical home, with people like Simon Sarris leading the way with inspiration.
But that also makes me think – if the true “home” is always with you, is the physical space that one calls home even relevant to that? How does this idea of the most important place you rest your body coincide with the fact that it probably shouldn’t matter where you do rest it?
In the Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt provides an interesting framework on how to potentially reconcile this through (you guessed it) his final hypothesis on how to be happy (bold emphasis mine):
The final version of the happiness hypothesis is that happiness comes from between. Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.*
Maybe your physical home is the ideal place for creating the right conditions for settling into your “home.” After all, it is where many people feel like they don’t need to filter out any of themselves.
On the opposite side, one of my favorite thinkers, Marcus Aurelius, would scoff at this. He’d say: why go away to the mountains to get away from it all? You can have it all right here, right now, anywhere you are.
I don’t think there’s one clear answer here, although I do think Haidt has it right where you can create certain conditions in your physical home to make you feel closer to your more personal, inner home.
And this goes both ways: the more your inner home has the freedom and ability to manifest itself in a physical space, the more favorable the condition to continue to foster your inner home, and the feedback loop continues.