“Isn’t it a characteristic of the age we live in that it has made everyone in a way a migrant and a member of a minority? We all have to live in a universe bearing little resemblance to the place where we were born: we must learn other languages, other modes of speech, other codes; and we all have the feeling that our own identity, as we have conceived of it since we were children, is threatened.
Many have left their native land, and many, though they haven’t left it, can no longer recognise it. This may be partly due to the natural homesickness that is a permanent feature of the human soul; but it is also caused by an accelerated process of evolution which has made us travel further in 30 years than people used to go in many generations.”
From On Identity by Amin Maalouf Reading this the other day was for me one of those times when an eloquent exposition of a tragic situation is paradoxically comforting – somehow easier to bear if we are all lost souls together, not just me. Mind you, someone suggested here recently that what ails me is the menopause, rather than modernity or globalisation – a suggestion I cannot entirely refute. But what is that if not another kind of leaving one land for another? I do think that a sense of place, of being home, is a really basic need. That we are living in a world where it’s increasingly elusive and then wondering why many of us often feel lost. That living with this feeling is a major drain on energy. That vowing to create one’s own little fortress against it is no more than a partial solution.
¶ 12:42 pm
Ah - menopause as "leaving one land for another." This helps me understand another reason why my recent move has been more difficult than past ones ... perhaps?
... a sense of place is a sense of self or do I mean, a sense of self is a sense of place? Hmmm, I think I mean the latter.
So much of what you (and Amin) write here rings true for me, too, although I do feel that one can create a sense of "place within" that feels more constant than the shifting physical world - including our changing half-century-old bodies! You've touched on a very big subject here, seems to me.
But the perception of being at home, and understood is an illusion. Better for our preconceptions to be challenged, to know that we are all equally alien, and equally fitting. I never felt at home, even when around those who supposedly knew me well. Not until I settled deeply into my own skin, my own understanding of myself, did I start to feel connected to the world around me. The many changes of place helped in this process as I had to face the disconnectedness.