If belonging is about my emotional connections to people, then abode is about my emotional connections to places.
With the way I’ve moved around since the day I was conceived in Tangiers, Morocco, born in Brussels, Belgium, lived significant chunks of time throughout three continents, and dual- citizen of the Netherlands and Canada, it would be easy for me (or you) to conclude that I’m not attached to any one place. Indeed, I hold almost no notions of nationalism or patriotism for any one state, politically or culturally (but not that I would ever betray the countries that gave me citizenship).
I am a true global citizen in my belief that humans are one race inhabiting our one home, our one planet.
And there you have it, our planet is the top-level abode that I care about. I’m heartbroken at how we have trashed this only home we all share, actively not only destroying it and the animals through our extractive and other careless/harmful actions but still, after all the evidence, rushing blindly towards our own extinction.
In the words of my Filipino friends at the Carl Jung Circle Center, the Earth is our Kapwa (soul friend with whom we share space).
The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.Zeno, Greek philosopher
Abode is the second prompt in The Eight Days of New Year BALANCE exercise. This exercise, as my friend Joan puts it, is not about setting resolutions, but “to ‘getting a fix on where you are’ to positively frame and describe the ‘whole’ of and all that matters to you.”
So here I go…
As I listen to Joan’s short video explaining the prompt, I sit on our couch in our modest yet cozy living room. I look around and appreciate the many delightful souvenirs my honey and I collected on our travels, arts and crafts that don’t fail to transport me back to those wonderful places and people visited. It’s always been vital to me that my home, whether temporary or longer-term, is cozy, comfortable, and welcoming to any visitor(s).
The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man’s abode…Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
In the 26 years we’ve lived in Manila, we’ve rented six abodes. Each time we were compelled to find a new one, we were conscious of our first impression when walking in the front door of any house we were looking at. I call it intuitive fengshui*—our belief that we can feel the energy of a place. In all but one house (where we lived only 11 months), we knew the instant we opened the door to feel good energy that it was “our” new place. Making a home out of a house after that was easy.
By its simplest definition, an abode is the place where one lives. I’ve covered my attachment to the planet and to the spaces we’ve lived in. I’ve described them both as my homes.
Just like I feel culturally at home nowhere and everywhere at the same time (see yesterday’s post), in nations I also feel at home both nowhere and everywhere (and the two are likely intertwined). I’ve felt equally at ease in any of the eight countries I’ve lived in for a year or more. I’m just so grateful my family and I have had the freedom to make those choices and moves. It’s made for a colorful life. One that few others can really relate to.
Our abode in this world is transitory, our life therein is but a loan… Our breaths are numbered and our indolence is manifest.Abu Bakr
There’s one more interesting “place” story that surprised even me at the time. In May of 1985, I found myself on a slow (overnight) boat to China from Hong Kong. When I landed in Guangzhou early the next morning, I was overwhelmed with a full-bodied sense that I had “come home.”
This feeling not only surprised me, and stayed with me, but to this day I can’t explain it. I didn’t, and don’t, exclusively connect with Chinese people or their culture any more than with others; and my experience living, working, and traveling in China over the next three decades affirmed my general belief that there are good and not good people everywhere. And yet, on that morning I fell in love with something… a place?
And so, I—or we—might ask, is home or abode really a place… or a feeling?
Not many months later I found my true abode in the arms of my China-born honey and we’ve made our homes together ever since.
Kindness is my prayer. Humanity is my abode.Debasish Mridha
What does the word abode bring up for you?
Tomorrow I’ll tackle L for…. ?
PS. *Fengshui is an ancient Chinese system linking one’s environment with one’s destiny. You can read my honey’s fascinating personal fengshui stories, including his ties to his birth and ancestral village, in his memoir: How My Brother Got Married after He Died.