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Afterword: Home

Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Thanks for an engaging and friendly discussion on the theme of Home.  As often happens, what seemed like it would be challenging opened the door to an array of perspectives and opportunities for creative synthesis.  Of course, there's only so much that can be done in an impromptu group.  As usual, here are some questions for further contemplation.  Once this email is posted to the Discussions area of the Meetup site, you are encouraged to post your response to one of these topics--or write your own topic question and answer that!
A look at the meeting notes (http://www.meetup.com...­) might refresh your memory of the meeting, or help you imagine that you did attend.

* There are SO many senses of "home", so many kinds of homes, such an array of disparate examples, that one may find it difficult to comment on what seems to be a chimerical category.  But, then, why do they all share the same word?  What connotations are widely shared among the many usages of "home"?  If some of them seem to contradict one another, either let them coexist for now, or tune them up so they don't clash.
* For many, home is where they feel safest.  Homebase is where we recharge our batteries before launching expeditions into the world.  It also serves as a touchstone, or point of orientation.  Where can you go from here?  (That is, expand upon this concept of home.)
* Robert Frost wrote that "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  What are some other formulations of home that reference "them"?  For example, aren't "they" the ones who seem to stand in the way our own "being ourselves"?  You might consider dramaturgical metaphors, as we may be performing "for" these others.
* What if home cannot be found?  The Gnostics felt that man's home was not on earth but in heaven.  Roaming peoples such as the Jews were perhaps the first to idealize home, to make it an abstract notion vs. a physical place.  If your strongest examples feel "anti-homey", this may be the avenue you should explore:  consider how you cope with place you have to be, or choose another place.
* Tom Wolfe maintained "you can't go home again":  homes change, you change, so...what?  Under what conditions is home irrecoverable?  Can a wanderer have the same feeling of home as a settled person?  You might consider the simple case of switching or changing your domicile.
* We heard a story or two about how, if one remains in one's hometown, one can never shake being the "freckle-face kid", or whatever.  Is the only alternative to Mayberry to ride the range or lose oneself in the anonymity of the Big City?  What are the implications of our identities being constituted by our hometowns?  Bonus points if you can turn the pun about "identity being indemnity" into a serious statement.
* We may say that we have "roots" in a place that feels like home.  A likeness to plants sacrifices our animal ability to locomote:  the fixity of confinement makes us vulnerable.  Comment on (or resolve!) this apparent contradiction.  Then see if you can incorporate the common euphemism of Home for Death, our final resting place (um, speaking of roots).
* Interestingly, now I can see that we seem to have made two orbits of Home.  What do you see that the topics below have in common with the topics above?  (They are roughly in the order in which we discussed them.)
* "Home is where the Wi-Fi connects automatically."  (Funny, I thought it had something to do with toothbrushes.)  If personal objects serve to make a place "homey", how does that work in a world where so many of our possessions are virtual?  How is personalization complicated by the "sharing economy"?
* Yes, our "home page" is like home in that it the common starting point for many of the motor sequences that get us through life's many tasks.  But then again, it is very different, in that we never have to "find our way back home":  just press the home-shaped icon.  Explore the subtle differences between the real and virtual worlds' concept of home.
* Many people require an array of personal possessions in order to feel at home.  How can portable, often trivial, objects make a space "homey"?  What does this say about home?  About objects?  You might consider specifically the phenomenon of pride in home.
* If you were a species, your home would be your habitat!  Think of your home as a place optimized for the existence of the life form that is you (or perhaps you have been optimized).  What happens if you are not there--to the place, and to yourself?  We touched on sociologist Pierre Bordieu's concept of "habitus", the habits, skills, styles, and tastes that we are not consciously aware of:  perhaps your home "explains" or "reveals" you.
* In the advanced stage of capitalism, it seems that home size is shrinking.  San Franciscans and Philadelphians elect to live in "pods" and treat the city as their living room; elsewhere, communal living is making a comeback as roommates explore models of self-governance (and face their own territoriality).  What do the downsizing trend and reactions to it reveal about Home?
* Taking the film Home for the Holidays (or any other about domestic dysfunction in December) as a launching point, explore the concept of home as it is illustrated by family drama.  (We overlooked it this time, but fiction--and movies, especially--really help to put ourselves into a situation not of our own making.  The director focuses our attention on the most difficult questions, which is where a philosopher wants to work!)
* Eminent biologist E. O. Wilson theorizes that social creatures (ants, humans) are characterized always by nests that constitute a significant investment that holds them together.  Even before we built anything, we had to "keep the home fire burning", in order to protect ourselves against cold and hunger.  Examine some examples of home formation (be it modern or aboriginal):  do people come together because they are alike, or are they pushed together by necessities?  How does the "hearth" shape who we are?
* Living with others definitely requires more social skills than living alone!  While cohabitants can provide assistance, they also place constraints.  Do you have any examples of how home fosters creativity?
* Reflect on the intersection/collision between ideals of home and politics.  We talked about how Marxists despised the domesticity of the bourgeoisie, as reflected, say, in styles of dress.  How does a culture arrive at its definition of what constitutes a home?
* A strong thread running through June's discussion of Place was travel, which we applied also to Home:  picture the salesperson who lives out of a suitcase.  This extreme de facto downsizing is mirrored in technology:  young people covet cars less because their identities are more wrapped up in their iPhones.  Over and over, we identified home with a safe, efficient, or permitted place to sleep:  critique the idea of "a home on the road" (or, as David Byrne titled a song, "Houses in Motion").
* Why is there, as Dorothy Gale intoned, "no place like home"?  Follow the yellow brick road--or take it in whatever direction is most interesting to you.
* Always, we must check in with the Greeks.  "For Socrates, [home] was literally a topic of life and death. For did not Socrates choose death as a lesser evil than exile?" (Edward H. Spence)  Plato thought the body itself was a prison; today we speak of being "at home" in our bodies.  Home, in every context, involves a subject (whose home it is), and so provides an access point to the really interesting problems in philosophy--namely, subjectivity and objectivity.  You know what to do.
Jay C.
greatferm
Novato, CA
Post #: 7
Great meeting ! I drifted in with no burning interest in the topic, but it must have struck some tinder, I got three good poems out of it later.

To attack... make that “consider” (too much blood on the philosophical floor already) your bullet-points in order,
1. Eschew Reductionism.
Home should not -cannot- be defined, for the same reason Art cannot be.
(I got this from Morris Weitz, who IIIRC derived it from Wittgenstein.)
A definition closes the circle, everything is either in or out. Stasis. Nothing new is possible.
Leave it open, there may be developments.
2. Home as feeling, as place, or as a feeling about a place, or a filling-station, are you not safer in jail, in church, in the office. Tutti-Fruiti
What do they call those little markers Surveyors put in concrete ?
3. Frost was telling a particular story, but is Home, like Hell, Other People ?
4. Gnosticism would be an interesting topic, but really arcane today, not easy to round up a group for that. I don’t think their home could not be found, it just had a lot of guardians to get past. They knew the way, that’s what makes them Gnostics.
We do have more Heroes Journey stories than Heroes Home stories (Odysseus being a singular exception) Don’t know anything about the Jewish home concepts you reference, and you don’t choose your historical home, do you, you just either stay or leave.
5. But Tom could, and did. We all have a bunch of No There, There places. Moth and rust doth corrupt.
6. By the way, another aspect to my friend’s statement about the home town kid was that people will expect to pay higher fees to unknown strangers, i.e. profits are less honored in one’s own country.
7. If you choose to grow in the old soil, consider carefully whether or not the old sod has nutrients enough to let you outlive all of the truths and all of the lies told about you.
8 ff. At home, everything works.
I know where the lightswitches are, and which way the faucet turns.
I know which icons to click on, and all my fetishes are ready-at-hand.
I am a species, and my home is my habitat. Whatever its size. If I go houseboat, there are trade-offs.
Fewer decisions have to be made.

Have not seen Home for the Holidays, but looking for August, Osage County, which I saw on stage last year at Ashland. You just THINK you know dysfunction. We should do a theatre party, followed by discussion.

Enough for now...
Deborah B.
MsAnalytical
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 23
And then there's Drake's song, Hold On, We're Going Home, with the chorus:

Cause you're a good girl and you know it
You act so different around me
Cause you're a good girl and you know it
I know exactly who you could be

Oh just hold on we're going home (going home)
Just hold on we're going home (going home)
It's hard to do these things alone (things alone)
Just hold on we're going home (going home, going home)
Hold on

'Hold on' is usually said to someone who is distressed and losing control. You say to 'hold on', as if to something solid so they don't wash out into the ocean. And "we're going home": out in the world you're alone, where you're alienated from yourself because you are not at home in the world. But going home, where you can be exactly who you are, with the one that loves you.
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 198
* There are SO many senses of "home", so many kinds of homes, such an array of disparate examples, that one may find it difficult to comment on what seems to be a chimerical category. But, then, why do they all share the same word? What connotations are widely shared among the many usages of "home"? If some of them seem to contradict one another, either let them coexist for now, or tune them up so they don't clash.
_____* For many, home is where they feel safest. Homebase is where we recharge our batteries before launching expeditions into the world. It also serves as a touchstone, or point of orientation. Where can you go from here? (That is, expand upon this concept of home.)
_____* Robert Frost wrote that "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." What are some other formulations of home that reference "them"? For example, aren't "they" the ones who seem to stand in the way our own "being ourselves"? You might consider dramaturgical metaphors, as we may be performing "for" these others.
_____* What if home cannot be found? The Gnostics felt that man's home was not on earth but in heaven. Roaming peoples such as the Jews were perhaps the first to idealize home, to make it an abstract notion vs. a physical place. If your strongest examples feel "anti-homey", this may be the avenue you should explore: consider how you cope with the place you have to be, or choose another place.
* Interestingly, now I can see that we seem to have made two orbits of Home. What do you see that the topics below have in common with the topics above? (They are roughly in the order in which we discussed them.)


In retrospect, our discussion--unplanned as it was--may have illustrated a theory that arose in the "What Is Philosophy Cafe?" thread, stemming from our discussions in the latter part of 2012 and beginning of 2013. That is, the disparate definitions we seem to use for a concept fall into certain categories. While there may be a multitude of ways of thinking about a theme, the ones that share a category can at least be compared to one another, leading perhaps to establishment of a preference for one; however, across categories, little progress toward unification can be made. The categories don't overlap because they use distinct entities: while they each have an "I", that "I" can be alone, encounter another, or be set against a backdrop of "Society".

The notion of Home as a touchstone of safety comes straight out of the scientific worldview. As a "fixed" point of departure, does it not "map" directly onto the Map artifact for Place that we explored in June? Home in the objective perspective is identified by capability, freedom of movement within known (but expandable) limits.

Robert Frost adds people, not as individuals, but rather in the form of a collective "they". Now we have a role to play-act, with a chorus for a backdrop. The Flag artifact--and we happened to have a U.S. flag--represented the Place that has to take us in, even if we criticize it. Our talk of identity and indemnity leveraged social stereotypes--cowboys and Mayberry. Home in the social perspective is characterized by "fit": being immersed in it, we know we're home by the feeling of familiarity (and hopefully, but not necessarily, ease).

While there is a strong negative sense for each perspective (a map showing us far from home, a foreign flag), the absolute negative of a heaven that is "nowhere" hints at an Other. The Locket was an artifact that created (rather than indicated) a Place that, ironically, could be taken from place to place. We linked Home to change via rootlessness, Tom Wolfe, and "going home" as a euphemism for dying. When framing such encounters, Home affords the starkest possibility of change or growth that "hits home".

Later in the meeting, we seemed to revisit these three approaches to Home, but with more detail added. We populated our Map of Home with personal objects, which then led us to consider the feeling of Home when they were all arranged just so. Yet that was distinct from the sociological angle of shrinking homes, considered under the Flag of Advanced Capitalism. (And, yes, it was August, Osage County that was the family drama we discussed. Doesn't it seem that The South provides the best dramatizations of Home?) Home-as-Locket seems to require support from the other conceptions. E. O. Wilson's emphasis on the importance of the nest uses science to create a "Place where we meet [that] is the constant in the change which ensues". Finally, we resorted directly to the travel metaphor that dominated the Place discussion, in considering how Home could be reflected by clothing, suitcases, and iPhones.

So next time it seems we're "all over the place", check whether we might be situating the theme concept in our standard "settings".
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