It is interesting to see how the ‘stable’ concept of home has such different meanings for different people. On one level, it is easy to assume that most everybody feels some degree of longing for what we think of as home. This would appear to be natural, tying into human needs to feel safe, and to feel that the arena is very familiar. This in turn creates affection, so home would become more than a known place; it would exist for the person as a reflection of what is valued in their life.
This is certainly the case with Geraldine Brooks and her small town of Waterford, Virginia. She and her neighbors have as profound an attachment to where they live as can be imagined, and her account of the town’s refusal to bring in cable television reinforces this. Brooks and her neighbors hold that the technology would disrupt the natural connections they share, which are rooted in ordinary human behaviors of helping and socializing. Brooks’s thinking is in fact a template for home as virtually sacred; it is for her the place where human identity, in its best sense, is allowed to expand.
On the other hand, Pico Iyer is somewhat more in favor of wandering, and he presents home as less important when people carry within themselves strong sense of their identities. Home can be any place for Iyer because home lives inside of us, in a way. Iyer admits to the power of place, certainly; he has come to appreciate that ‘standing still’ brings with it dimensions of awareness no traveling can supply. This then translates into a modified idea of attachment because Iyer sees the values in both remaining in one place and wandering, just as he seems to believe that a feeling of comfort usually created by home does not rely on place.
The first thing these differing views makes me realize is that home for each writer is abstract. Brooks focuses on her real home, of course, but her description of it may apply to any small community; she understands that the connections she values and points to by name and address merely have different names and addresses for others. Iyer too is abstract, never identifying a certain place, or even way of traveling, as right. Both authors deal with the idea of home, and this helps the reader relate. As they present the ideas, the concept of personal identity is what links them; no matter the value to home as place or as essence within a person, this is the key, and media is critical to it for both as well. With Brooks, it is a real threat to a way of life, but it is just as important in Iyer because his endorsement of wandering likely relies on modern communication, as well as on how media encourages an idea of ‘sameness’ for all of us.
I believe this factor of media is extremely important in any discussion of home today, mainly because media shapes our senses of identity, which is so traditionally based in our senses of where we come from and where we should be. Media homogenizes; it presents a world wherein all of us may be any place because, no matter the form of it, it exists to appeal to all of us and consequently presents individual identity as paramount. It then urges us to feel a kind of oneness with everyone in all places, so it tends to diffuse any powerful meaning of home. All of this occurs, too, as media tends to promote adventure, which translates to leaving the home and seeing the new. This is something I have definitely felt; media tells me that my own value, in fact, will be greater if I am confident enough to explore and bring ‘home’ within me. Some media glamorizes traditional ideas of home as place, but the main emphasis is on movement.
I admit that this influence has affected me. To a large extent, I carry the belief that inner confidence is superior to any attachment to a place because this is the message so long sent. In media even affection for place is old-fashioned, possibly a sign of fear, and more right for older people who no longer have the strength to wander. Recently, however, I wonder. I think more that Brooks is on to something important because there is a human need to be known well, and this can only occur in a place that is home. Everything she discusses reflects this; her community
works together because they know and trust one another. It is not then so much about place, in fact, but about how that place is defined by those with whom it is shared. Ultimately, then, I move away from media influence because I value more the idea of myself as more fully understood by me when I am understood by others, only time can create this, and it may only be created in a shared landscape of home.