23 April 2012

Do you claim all of your home?

One of the central problems with associating the idea of home too much with a place is that you're making a claim to be a part of something that you probably do not even begin to understand.

Our ignorance is unlimited.

When you say that you are proud to be from a place, you should do so knowing what that place really is and what it has been.  Pride in nationality or group often stumbles when it is presented with all of the requisite negativity that comes from the way that groups and nations work.  There is very little that is moral or compassionate in the way that a state functions, and the ways in which groups define themselves and confine themselves leave little room for the questioning and personal growth that is a standard part of the good life.

Be a human being, not a Brazilian.  There is an overwhelming history of compassion and love that comes with that humanity, and it sits right alongside an overwhelming history of brutality and hate.  That is not to say that there aren't things about your community or your people that you shouldn't stake a valid claim to, that you shouldn't be proud of.  There's little of you in that claim though, besides that which you choose to take for yourself.  And if it is a taking on of your own choice, why limit it to one place or one people?  Search far and afield for the positive.

Take all that is good, strive to be all that is good, and always keep in the back of your head the fact that goodness and decency are something to be fought for.  All too many throughout history, around the world, in your town,of your people, under your flag forgot that. That is part of being human, but it is also something that you claim when you put yourself under their banner.

14 April 2012

Where do you live?

Understanding home is pretty difficult.  We normally assign a pretty generic place name to the idea of home.  The further away we get from the place the more and more generic it gets.

Right now I live in the city of Mississauga.  If someone from around here asks me where my home is I would tell them "Mississauga".  I own a little bit of land here, have a house, just built a raised garden bed in the backyard this morning before it started raining.

If Mississauga is my home, and Mississauga is in Canada, wouldn't that mean that Canada would have to be my home as well?  Yet it's a whole different story to refer to a country as your home.  I grew up on the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana.  It was hard for me to ever even say that Indianapolis was my home.  I definitely didn't feel at home downtown, or out west, and definitely not up north.

The United States, even as it grows seemingly more and more dysfunctional by the day, still registers as home for me in the big picture.  My brain puts out alarms whenever the conversation of home and country even come up, it's a topic riven with competing psychological interests.

But when you break away from the psychological attachments and look at what I've just said, it makes no sense.  A city that is Canada is where I would call home in any normal ol' conversation, but the same doesn't stand true for Canada itself.  That word, home, like most words, has so much meaning bound up in such a small space that it's hard to treat it with any sense of greater understanding.

If the US is home, then wouldn't the deep heart of Mississippi be home?  It's the US?  If Mississauga is home then wouldn't the mansions up and down Mississauga Road be home?  They're in Mississauga.

When any of us are asked about the idea of home, we have answers at the ready.  When we start to break those answers down though, we're left without a good understanding of whether the thing that we call home is specific enough to have any real meaning.

Understanding that contradiction is one of the important parts of understanding the idea of cosmopolitanism.

12 April 2012

The Stoic is cosmopolitan

Nope, wrong one.

Interesting, but nope again.

Cosmopolitan in it's old, little understood, sadly too often reserved for just those who travel around staying in luxury hotels kind of.

Two weeks ago I'd planned on doing a short series about fatherhood, but hey, the baby is here, and being thrust into fatherhood kind of removes the immediate will to write about it.

I'm working on the idea of home this week with my students, and it got me to thinking about the way that Epictetus develops the idea of a cosmopolitan person, the person who regards the world as their home.

More on that as time and baby allows this week.

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