Saturday, July 15, 2006

Profound as it Applies to Lake Worth

This is something that a good friend of mine sent me. It is written by M. Craig Barnes and it is titled "Why do we keep moving? - Home has nothing to do with how good the place is. It has everything to do with whether or not it is the right place"

I bring it here because it speaks to the existential notion of "home" and the thought that regardless of where we may be, we are always longing for home - which leads to an innate disatisfaction of where we live. Perhaps this helps to explain the feelings of those that in many ways never seem content. I apologize to those who may be offended by some religious references in the article, but I'd like your reaction to the notion of how this "longing for home" relates to the City we call Lake Worth. I have highlighted areas that I thought were particularly interesting. Here is the article:

It doesn’t matter where you move, how fast you run, or how many new identities you try on along the way, you can’t escape the longing for home. Most people don’t destroy their families and homes in order to die alone in an old camping trailer. Right. But we all leave home, and, like my Dad, we never recover from it.

Even if you stay in the same community in which you were raised, which is rather unusual today, you’re stuck with the same longing the rest of us have because the community itself has changed. Sometimes it is we who leave home, sometimes it is home that leaves us, but an inescapable dynamic of life today is that we are a long way from where we used to be.

The only approximation we have of our true home with God is the place where we grew up. For some that was such a terrible place that the approximation is pale, and they never want to return there. For others the childhood home was a place filled with delightful memories for which they are thankful, but from which they are not trying to recover. They’ve moved on. But in either case leaving home as a young adult sets an agenda in our souls to find a new place where we belong.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau about 43 million Americans move in an average year. That accounts for 16 percent of the population who are hitting the road every year. And for the most part it’s a different 16 percent that move the next year, and a different group the year after that. Pretty soon the numbers add up. The typical American is now expected to move fourteen times over the course of his or her life.

Why are so many of us constantly moving from one place to another? If you ask people that question, and I have certainly asked plenty, the most common answer involves work. As the geographer David Sopher has claimed, "It is the property of vegetables to remain rooted." Our society has taught us from an early age to move ahead in life, and after going away to college we discover that our next move is getting the best job we can, and then an even better job, and then a better one after that. These jobs are usually all in different places. Work may be the excuse for our transiency, and it may even be the only reason of which we are consciously aware. But the pastor in me has been digging deeper to discover what is it that drives us to accept these job offers that make us pack up and take off again.

The answer of the Scriptures to this deeper question is that from the beginning we have been searching for paradise. We think that the next place, where a more lucrative job is waiting, will afford us a better chance of creating it for ourselves. But it never quite works out that way. The house may be bigger, but we were never really looking for that. We’re looking for home.

Before long the new place into which we have moved is marred by all of the pressures that we thought we had left behind in the old one. Stress always seems to be conveyed from one house to the next. In our disillusionment, we find other ways of distracting ourselves and staying on the move, even though our address has not yet changed.

Frances Mayes, a university professor who lives in San Francisco, responded to her divorce by purchasing an old house in the countryside of Tuscany, Italy. She wrote a popular book called Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy about her adventures in renovating the house, called Bramasole, which means in part "to yearn for." Often the book describes the frustrations of having to leave Bramasole to return to her life in San Francisco, where she spends nine months a year. This means much more of her time is spent away from the place she yearns for than in it, which is pretty descriptive for all of us.

In one of the most telling chapters of the book, she describes her observations of the many friends who stop by to see her Tuscan house on their way. As is typical of American tourists, they crammed in far too many stops in their travels, never spending much time in one place, and thus, never getting to know the places along the way. After seeing this repeated pattern, she concluded, "It’s not the destinations; it’s the ability to be on the road, happy trails, out where no one knows or understands or cares about all of the deviling things that have been weighing you down, keeping you frantic as a lizard with a rock on its tail." Eventually, however, we run out of trips and other distractions from the deviling things of life. That’s usually about the time we decided just to move again and look for another rock under which to place our tails.

Quite a bit of literature has been published lately by sociologists and cultural observers who are fascinated by our transiency. One of the most popular of these, written by Gary Pindell, is called A Good Place to Live: America’s Last Migration. Pindell’s thesis is that now people are no longer willing to live anywhere the job calls, and given such recent technological advances as telecommuting, it is no longer necessary. Now, he claims, people are more interested in finding a "good place" in which to settle down. The good place has main streets with grocery and hardware stores you can walk to, and perhaps bump into your neighbors along the way. It hasn’t been wrecked by developers, strip malls on busy four-lane boulevards, and the endless sprawl of ugly houses that all look alike. We’ve had it. We’re sick of it. And we are looking for a good place again. But the reader doesn’t get too far into the book before wondering if the "last migration" to a good place doesn’t look an awful lot like the migration of the Cleaver family to their suburban home in the 1950s.

Pindell illustrates the search for a good place with his own life. After painting an almost idyllic description of his community in Keene, New Hampshire, complete with the white-steepled church on the village green, he decided that it wasn’t quite good enough. As he says, "Fully cognizant that there were lots of places in North America far worse than Keene, I set out to see if I could find better ones...." He soon discovered his search was common to thousands who were all using the same short list of towns. So he organized his book by chapters describing fourteen “good places”—towns ranging from Asheville to Santa Fe. The fascinating thing about his descriptions is that there was something wrong with all of them. Right. Exactly right.

That’s because we’re yearning for home, and home has nothing to do with how good the place is. It has everything to do with whether or not it is the right place. And the right place isn’t something you choose, but a place that chooses you, molds you, and tells you who you are.

"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"