Finding Our Way Home

bird of paradise by
Bird of Paradise, photo from

We are all dislocated people.

We were not meant to live in cities, in climates that our naked bodies are not suited to, in lands where finding wild and healthy food isn’t easy and delightful. We are creatures of the jungle. There is no room for us now, in the jungle, and we have forgotten how to live there anyway. And within a few decades the jungle will all be gone in any case. If we long for that home we will do so in vain.

A couple of years ago I wrote a passage, from the perspective of a duck, that I still get comments on from time to time:

I thought I would offer this blog’s human readers some advice on how to be human. From what I can see from my pond, homo sapiens isn’t very good at it. I suspect that’s because you’ve only been around for three million years or so, unlike us longer-term residents who have had more time to figure out the rules. Here are a few of them for your edification:

  • The flock is everything. A flock is a tribe. A flock of ducks is known as a raft or a team. A flock or tribe is much more than a family (in every sense) and nothing like your human culture’s towns or ethnicities or nations. The tribe teaches you most of what you need to know to live successfully. You (plural) are the tribe. Without the tribe you are nothing.
  • Senses are honed by exercising them, but you humans spend much of your life in abstractions. Look until you really see what’s happening and why it’s happening and why it matters. These are important learnings, not minutiae. The devil isn’t the only thing in the details. If you stop listening, seeing, learning, you are no longer really alive.
  • Know your place. We are all part of a web, a mosaic, and we all travel, but ultimately we have our own place, our ‘home’. If you’re not totally connected with everything and every creature that is part of your place, then it isn’t your place. If you don’t have a place, then you don’t yet really exist. A house is not a place, though if it’s open it can be part of one. A mind is not a place.

Study us ducks, or even your cat and dog companions, and you will learn more about teams and tribes, about how to ‘come to your senses’, about the meaning of home, and about how to really belong in this world, far more than you will ever learn in books and classrooms and blogs and the workplaces where you meaninglessly slave away your lives.

I could tell you much more, but that’s enough for now. As your T.S. Eliot says, Human kind cannot bear very much reality.

When I wrote this, I had been sitting quietly at the edge of my wetland home, watching the ducks and imagining what they could say to me if only I understood their language. And I began feeling ‘homesick’. Not the nostalgia for the sanitized, idealized past, in the place I grew up. Not the insecure yearning for a simpler, secure, responsibility-free existence. Rather, a longing for a place I had never known, calling to me.

My current home is a lovely place, one that I leave as rarely as possible and spend as much time as possible exploring and learning more about. It is my connection to this current home that allows me to hear the call of my true home, in some faraway jungle that exists only in my imagination and in my bones and in my genetic code, my intuition. I can only describe it as a joyful ache, because the mere thought of it, and what I, and others for whom it is also home and with whom I am meant to be living, would be doing there, if only we could make our way forward to that place, makes me smile.

I am very content with my current home. It is the best home that one could hope to find in this terrible, crowded modern world. It has allowed me to discover a great deal about myself and what it means to be human, and alive. And it has enabled me to Let-Myself-Change. But it is not my true home, and much of the learning I ache for is not possible here or anyplace that is left for humans to choose to live.

This is what makes me despair most about our future. With all the challenges we face in this century, we are not very well equipped to know what we must do, because we are so disconnected from the only place, our true home, from which such knowledge can come. We can, of course, adapt to any place, learn to call any place home; that is the great strength of our species. But in that adaptation so much learning and knowledge and capacity is inevitably lost. Even indigenous peoples — who appreciate this far more than most, and more than I, lucky as I am to have found a wonderful half-way surrogate home — cannot really know what must be done. And as they, and we, become further displaced, again and again, by what we strangely call ëprogressí, that knowledge fades even further from our grasp. We may call these astonishing places ëhomeí, but we do not belong here.

Most of the very bright people I know have spent all their lives in cities, and when I speak to them about this it is as if I were speaking a foreign language. They have no idea what I mean. Soon, this will be true for all of us. We will have such knowledge as the world has never seen or imagined.

But it will not be the knowledge we need to be human, to be who we really are. We will have lost the final compass that could have shown us, at last, theway home.

Category: Our Culture
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1 Response to Finding Our Way Home

  1. patrick says:

    i have full confidence dave that one day we will re-find this. one way or another…

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