What is home?

What is home? The Biblical book of Exodus tells of being a stranger in a strange land, which has universal resonance.  To fully grasp our attachments to home then, perhaps we might first consider what home is not: Terra incognita.

Entering a place you’ve never been before is quite disorienting.  Nothing is familiar; not much is welcoming — this is what lost feels like. Unfamiliarity might be essential for adventure, but it is very human to identify familiar markers before we embark so that we will know when we have returned. Home can become a safe place, a sanctuary to which we retreat when strangeness has lost its allure.

As we grow up, we cannot always locate that physical place we first called home. It may still be there, but it has changed just as surely as we have. However, I daresay we all possess a sense of what our first home meant to us. There will never be any place quite like it, good, bad and everything in between. It was, above all else, familiar. Yet, isn’t it interesting to compare our perceptions with those with whom we shared our first home? Isn’t it amazing to discover that our memories are so diverse?  How could this be?  How can it be that we would not recognize the home of their memories? What parts of our personal templates are affected by age, gender or other variables?

If home was the beginning of everything, then home would be where our attitudes, beliefs and values were initially created. These initial creations reside hidden inside our neural synapses, those small gaps at the end of neurons where signals are passed to and from. Synapses connect; they are integral to the functioning of our brains. Without them, there could be no memories. I am curious: Why are memories so different between siblings or others with whom we shared a home? Why do our own memories change over time? And, the most fascinating question of all: Where inside these marvelous brains of ours are the “homes” where memories dwell?

In Communication research, the Schema theory hypothesizes that all humans possess unique mental schemas or templates. These define what, how and why we feel about everything we perceive. What data do we “pull up” in perception processing? How do these selections get organized, and then interpreted? How does perception affect memories? A retrieved memory is something today, something quite different tomorrow. Why are we often challenged to renegotiate our original perceptions? What has the power to alter perceptions,  to renegotiate our initial interpretations?


“…we all carry around this great unexplored ‘elephant graveyard’ inside us. Outer space aside, this is truly humanity’s last terra incognita.”
— Haruki Murakami (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World)

Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece – just different elements of belonging and not-belonging.  Jhumpa Lahiri

Humans spend their lives thinking. Awake or dreaming,  we are constantly altering, arranging, building, dreaming and pursuing thoughts. Some of these thoughts are about home: leaving, returning, creating, changing…we construct imaginary dwellings from inexhaustible scrap heaps of our desires, hopes and memories. Like salvaging items following a storm, what shall we find? What shall we keep? What shall we refurbish, recycle or repurpose? What shall we discard?

HOME! A sensory feast. Memories force open our neurological doors, urging us to enter. Inside, we celebrate, cry, laugh, mourn, reflect, scream, unearth. Yet, it has been said many times, and in many ways, that we cannot go home…do you agree? Is there really no place like home? I invite you to come in to my blog space. Share your thoughts of home here.

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