On moving

I had to pause before I turned the key for the last time. Nearly every day over the past five years, I had been at this very door.

For this was the place we called “home”. Inside those walls, was the room that our newborn son slept in the day we brought him home from the hospital. There was the window where I rocked him as he gazed at the moon and stars. These were the walls from which we hung decorations for his first and second birthdays. There was the carpet on which he first learned to walk. There was the balcony from which he first saw the sun, clouds, rain, and snow.

Then, a few days ago, we packed large boxes with the objects that had occupied the spaces within those walls. We took the furniture and the boxes out of that home and placed them inside another enclosure of walls. We left that address permanently.

During the cleaning and boxing process, I found many knickknacks I had either lost or had forgotten acquiring. As a final act of jealous defiance, the rooms also coughed up loose change and dust by the handful. And then once it had been stripped of all of our possessions, the rooms looked small and naked. How had we ever fit so many things in here? How had we found the space for so many footsteps and voices and emotions? How had we filled these rooms with so many days and nights and thoughts and memories?

All of us need the concept of a home as a reference point as we crisscross the earth. But our homes are not only spatial constructs, they are locked in time and memory. Notions of homes change faster than recollections of years spent in them. Until one day, we cannot stay any longer.

Galaxies and stars move: our planet is in constant motion. Like them, we are restless wanderers who flit from one place to another: we are always in motion. Our motion has an added dimension in that it is conscious.

I have changed residences many times in my life. I moved away from the soil of my ancestors. Moving is never easy, but it is essential. Only when you are exiled from the place you call home, can you think of creating another one for yourself.

It is necessary to be separated from a home to gain an awareness of it and to cherish the notion of it. But there is pain in exile. A line from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” sums up the emotion: “You will have to abandon everything you love most tenderly, and that is the arrow that the bow of exile first lets fly.”

As I locked the door of my home for the last time that day, I knew that place would soon become home for another family, who would have their own stories to tell. We would also have a home of our very own, at least for sometime, until it would be time to move again. For wandering is the only option in life.

“Moving” is taking objects from one small enclosure we call home, to another. Moving is the process of finding a resting place for physical objects we have amassed, not for us.

(Written April 23, 2014).

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Listen.

Is the world becoming a more intolerant place? Of course, I can’t answer that question objectively, but it certainly feels that way these days. What seem to me to be in short supply are empathy and humility. So many people I come across seem to have all the right answers, so much that they are even unwilling to entertain alternate viewpoints.

When I was younger, I seemed more certain about things. With age has come uncertainty, for which I am truly grateful. Uncertainty has added more hues to my mental palette. 

I wish I was better at listening, though. Even if my intentions are good, there are a wide array of experiences I can never have, and I need to accept that and just listen more. For example, I will never know what it is like to face misogyny. 

So much misogyny, casual racism, class discrimination, language prejudice, homophobia, and bigotry gets dismissed offhand by those who never know what it is like to face these injustices on a daily basis. Telling people that their concerns are unwarranted does nothing to make anyone feel bigger or more welcome. It serves no purpose whatsoever. 

Why can’t we all accept that we don’t get to decide how other people feel? Maybe we all need to listen more when others talk about why they hurt instead.