Home is Where the Heart Is
Perspective is essential in art and life.
As I sit here this morning, pondering the various offerings that my friends have left for me on social media, I came across a cute photoshop of a country house surrounded by trees. In the background, an idyllic sunset (or sunrise – how you decide will determine your score on this part of the test) fills the sky with a burst of color and light. Below it reads the caption, “Home is Where the Heart Is.”
Immediately, my mind is taken back to the memories of my own childhood. Such memories are complicated, as they are for everyone; an essential human experience is that we all have complex memories of childhood, but would rather our parents not find out…we all fear risking their disappointment. Mine was okay though: when I see the picture, I am flooded with a sense of warmth that lingers over all else.
But then my mind stops, and I think of friends who have suffered enormously at the hands of their parents. I think of students and colleagues whose homes were sometimes very real prisons. I read newspaper stories about families created in the mists of drug addictions, and torn apart in the same. I read about alcoholic mothers and wild-eyed, terrorist fathers. And I wonder about that word: home.
There is only one common assumption that once can make about the word. It is the place where we live. In this way it is one of those “universal singularities” in English. It has an anchoring effect that a word like “house” is missing. Home means something personal to everyone, but what makes it personal is really just the emotional attachment that each of us feels to the place that we live.
Understanding this, I start to wonder about the expression, “home is where the heart is.” Where exactly is the line between sentimentality and cynicism? When does a real love for “home” dissolve into some wistful longing or confused sentimentality for the image in the photograph. How much pain and hurt, joyful longing and sublime care hide behind one stupid cliche? Home is a universal word because it is one that everyone must stand within. Literally as it happens: you can’t help but look out from your home and into the home of another. Home, after all, is where you live.
This is why a writer cannot simply use a word to do the job: perspective is at the center of everything we write and read. The maddening thing concerns the real place of intersection – where the choice of language meets the reader. Because home is where the heart is.